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‘Lebanese Film Days’ tell stories of war, social life

(Photos: IMDB)
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Starting today, the Lebanese Film Days will screen selected films exploring stories of war and social life in the country.

The Royal Film Commission organizes the event, which starts its first film activities this year, for three days; screenings is held at Rainbow Theater.اضافة اعلان

The selected films include “Skies of Lebanon”, by Chloé Mazlo, “All This Victory”, by Ahmad Ghossein, who will attend the screening, and “Memory Box”, by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige.

Memory Box. (Photos: IMDB)

These three films tackle wars that ravaged the country, including the civil war, and the war between Hezbollah and Israel. Action happens in different timelines: the 1950s, 2006 and 1980s. Each film has its own style and narrative, each tells a story that will linger in one’s mind and touch one’s heart.

Skies of Lebanon – a tragicomic story of Lebanon

It is a colorful and poetic story that intertwines family history and national history to denounce the absurdity of war.

Combining live action shots and animation, this chronicle of a Beirut family retraces the festive atmosphere before the civil war, and the explosion of the conflict. This marvelous Sous le ciel d'Alice (original title) film, is the first feature by Franco-Lebanese filmmaker Mazlo.

Mazlo, who studied graphic design at the Arts Decoratifs School in Strasbourg, seized on the family album, and especially the fate of her grandmother Alice (Alba Rohrwacher), of Swiss origin, who decided, in the 1950s, to leave the family nest for a job as a nurse in Beirut.

Very quickly, the astonished spectator is confronted with a patchwork of images mixing real shots and stop motion animation. The young years of Alice, in the green Helvetian pastures, take on the naïve air of Heidi in the mountains before she bids farewell to her parents and arrives in a city bathed in light, Beirut, like an Eden.

All This Victory. (Photos: IMDB)

Poetic images

Alice is just beginning to discover the delights of cardamom coffee when she meets Joseph Kmar (director Wajdi Mouawad), a soft-spoken scholarly physicist dreaming of sending a Lebanese person into space. Around this lunar couple gravitate more extroverted and solar characters. Over the years, the grain of the Super-16 film brings the image closer to the stereotypical family photo of the 1970s. The Kmar family is alive and well, and their door is always open. Even in the darkest hours, the large apartment remains the home port of friends, always cheerful, even in minor mode.

All the singularity of the film is based on the rarity of its animated images that we discover in the course of a shot, without expecting it, like a pearl encrusted in an oyster. These little poetic images are linked to the tender and burlesque atmosphere of this solar and subdued film. Jumping with agility from one square to another, like hopscotch, Sous le ciel d'Alice thwarts the pitfalls of the family fresco (pathos ringing and stumbling or, conversely, joy too good to be true) and crosses the “big story” through sensations.

Sous le ciel d'Alice.(Photos: IMDB)

The director skilfully crosses the different cinematographic techniques, infuses tenderness and naïvete in the heart of the violent subject that is war.

At first, the story mischievously depicts a time of recklessness, a country where the inhabitants take pleasure in receiving each other, where each meal is a feast, where the material conditions, sometimes difficult, in no way affect the joy to live on a people who are never discouraged and always ready to help each other.

At the heart of a colorful and fanciful staging, in the first part, animated images and real views alternate, thus maintaining at a distance a reality, which, too focused, would harm the atmosphere of innocence and assumed lightness.

Allegorical differences gradually diminish when the conflict starts, marking the disenchantment of characters caught in the turmoil of history. Yet, here again the horror is kept at bay. The choice of using Super 16 film, whose grain gives the decor a vaporous appearance, softens features and feelings. Love can be guessed, struggles are danced while, disregarding all geopolitical or religious questions, the combatants merge to the rhythm of plans imbued with delicate poetry, far from any denouncing effect, transforming this fratricidal madness into an immense fresco of warm humanity.

But ultimately, this picture of shift and restraint would be incomplete without the masterful presence of the lunar and tenderly modest couple formed by Alba Rohrwacher (Alice) and Wajdi Mouawad (Joseph). The gentleness that emanates from them creates a peaceful atmosphere and alleviates the dramatic circumstances in which they are struggling.

A look or an attitude, much better than words, is enough for them to render a whole range of emotions. Surrounded by a slew of solar secondary characters and with well-defined characters, they participate in the empathy that one feels for this explosive and endearing family.

If 40 years later one can regret that this country is still in the grip of the same upheavals, one can rejoice that one of its ambassadors has the talent to speak of her eternal heartbreaks with so much kindness.

The film received a Special Mention in the Arab feature-length narrative films category at the 2nd Amman International Film Festival – Awal Film.

It was also nominated for the Lumiere Awards for Best First Film and the Golden Gate Award for New Director at San Francisco International Film Festival.

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