In April, 1975, civil war breaks out; Beirut is partitioned along a Moslem-Christian line. Tarek is in high school, making Super 8 movies with his friend, Omar. At first the war is a lark: ... See full summary »
In April, 1975, civil war breaks out; Beirut is partitioned along a Moslem-Christian line. Tarek is in high school, making Super 8 movies with his friend, Omar. At first the war is a lark: school has closed, the violence is fascinating, getting from West to East is a game. His mother wants to leave; his father refuses. Tarek spends time with May, a Christian, orphaned and living in his building. By accident, Tarek goes to an infamous brothel in the war-torn Olive Quarter, meeting its legendary madam, Oum Walid. He then takes Omar and May there using her underwear as a white flag for safe passage. Family tensions rise. As he comes of age, the war moves inexorably from adventure to tragedy. Written by
The title "West Beyrouth" has the first word "West" in English, and the spelling of the second word "Beyrouth" in French. The director said that it's an allegory to the trilingual cultrue existing in Lebanon: Arabic being the native language, and French and English being the 2 other quintessential languages spoken there. See more »
In one scene when Tarek and Omar can't find May and sit down to talk, a Peugeot 505 appears in the background. Peugeot hadn't released their 505 model in 1975-76, the year at which the scene is supposed to happen. See more »
Having lived in North America my entire life, and only seeing the rest of the world through movies, books, and TV, I confess I have no experience of what the world is like when your home is a battlefield, especially in places like the Balkans and the Middle East, which have been sources of strife for several centuries. For many, of course, it's a source of tragedy. But what about those who may live on the edge of conflict, but aren't directly involved? For those who the challenge is simply to fit your day to day life around the war? HOPE AND GLORY was a film like that, though it was also about a little boy who could of course only see school was out, and WEST BEIRUT is like that as well; in fact, it retains the child-like view of HOPE AND GLORY but balances it with the adult viewpoint.
Writer-director Ziad Doueiri isn't interested in making a tract about the Lebanese Civil War(though he doesn't slight from its horrors, as in its opening scene of the bus massacre), but rather picking up the details of everyday life there. If there's a message, and Doueiri refreshingly doesn't hammer us over the head with one, it seems to be this; you do what you can. That's the attitude of the father of the main character Tarak; when both his wife and his son want to leave, he reminds them they really have no place else to go, these things have happened before, but they will stop, and life will go on. You can even find humor in your existence(as when Tarak escapes a battle by hiding in a car, which then takes him to what he thinks is a group of guerrillas but turns out to be something else entirely).
Doueiri, who was the second-unit cameraman on every film Quentin Tarantino directed, not only shows his visual flair, but also tells a compelling story, although with a few slow spots, and while the main characters are teens coming of age, we see the adult point of view as well; sometimes it's mocked(when Tarak's friend Omar complains his father thinks all Western culture is the devil's work, Tarak replies, puzzled, "How does Paul Anka come from Satan?"), but mostly it's taken seriously, and that, I think, helps make this a good film. Doueiri and his brother Rami(who plays Tarak) are ones to watch.
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