Most Lebanese know Michel Hourani as an actor who played several starring roles and went through different dramatic experiences, and few of them may remember him as a TV presenter for more than one programme. Among them are “Wafa Hour” and “Now Your Turn” on Lebanon TV. Today, he returns to this profession that he loves, after leaving it immortalized in deep stability about 11 years ago.
The program “Before the Light” is shown on the “LBC Rotana” screen every Wednesday evening, and deals with a long period in the lives of its star guests before their fame. As his name indicates, he introduces the viewer to his favorite star before his life under the lights, so Michel Hourani accompanies him on a long journey to his hometown, as he talks to him about the most important stations he remembers from a recent past. The program consists of various and fixed paragraphs, to which each guest is subject.
The idea belongs to Michel himself, and the name of the program was chosen by the journalist and writer Josephine Habshi. The company, “Wild Cherry Production”, will implement its production, while the director, Jean-Pierre Abdaim, will sign it.
Familiar faces on screen or stage will accompany the viewer over the course of 13 episodes. As Hourani says, it is subject to renewal and expansion to include Arab stars in the future. During this season, he receives a group of artists, including Takla Chamoun, Nada Bou Farhat, George Khabbaz, Randa Kaadi, Carlos Azar, Dalida Khalil, Abeer Nehme, Youssef Al-Khal and others.
Hourani notes that the idea was born with him when he was taking photographs in his home town of Deir Mimas. “At that time, I was with my children photographing places that reminded me of my childhood with my brothers. At the same time, I was telling them about the importance of every place we pass in my village. Thus, the idea was born, which, in my opinion, is unlike any other in television programs. Stars usually pass unnoticed on stations from the past. However, in (Before the Light) I shed light on the artist’s personality, the neighborhood and the environment in which he lived. It gives us an idea of the guest from the human side more than the documentary.”
According to Hourani, there are several lines that meet under the roof of this program with its guests. “There is a documentary, sentimental, dramatic line and other elements that introduce us to the guest closely. And I prepare myself to walk against the current, and everything related to glamor and highlighting the bright slit only at the star does not interest me.
Hourani holds a long session with his guest before filming the episode, which has a running time of about 45 minutes. “I dive into his life and drink threads from it so that I can come up with the necessary content and script. And it requires courage from the guest to open the doors of his past, and based on his great confidence in me, I bring out memories and stations from his depths.
And did all the artists agree to go through this experiment? He replies to Asharq Al-Awsat: “Some of them refused the matter, and they are few and I understand them well. Going back and to a past may open wounds for them, and some may not accept it, and among them are those who apologize because they do not find themselves ready yet to go through a similar experience, and others simply express their refusal, because they do not like to dive into their past. Among the guests he receives are also media stars and sports champions.
And about the difficulties he faced with his guests, he says: “Since I prepare the program and meet the guest before filming, there are no significant difficulties, as I prepare for my program carefully. I do not highlight what is superficial and unreal about the star. I do not, for example, take advantage of the moment of his crying to shed another tear. I also keep clips and don’t show them in the episode. Frankly and with all humility, I do not look like most of the mainstream media today on the screen.
Hourani’s selection of his guests came on the basis of diversification and introduction to several Lebanese regions. He goes with his guest on trips on the coast and the mountain and from south to north. And he comments: “I took this matter into account in order to present the most comprehensive picture of Lebanon. It also focused on well-known Arab names because the channel is an Arab satellite channel, not a local one. Most of my guests have a wide Arab balance.
Television presentation did not rob him of acting, that is, his main profession. “I have always practiced acting, university teaching, and television presenting together. None of them contradict the other. In acting, I express my feelings, but I do not innovate as in television presentation. So I play the role drawn for me in the story. In the end, none of them can cancel the other.
And about his newness in acting, he explains: “The actor cannot come to work unless he receives the appropriate offer. Currently, there are fewer opportunities in this field. Due to the crisis we are experiencing with dramas that cannot accommodate everyone. These are matters related to joint production and marketing. There are not many opportunities for all actors, especially from the first grade.
In this wasted time, and since Michel Hourani could not sit idly by, he resorted to television presentation. “I benefit from my skills and abilities and employ them in productive work, and I believe that this opportunity came at the right time, after the Ramadan season. I am currently awaiting the announcement of the premiere of the foreign film “Valley of Exile” directed by Anna Faher, the only Lebanese participating in it, and it is expected to participate in international festivals soon. Cinematic work, in my opinion, lives longer than drama. It is a Lebanese-Canadian production, starring two rising actresses from Syria.