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West Beirut (1998)

West Beyrouth (À l'abri les enfants) (original title)
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 »



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Credited cast:
Rami Doueiri ...
Tarek Noueri
Naamar Sahli
Mohamad Chamas ...
Omar (as Mouhidine Guerra)
Rola Al Amin ...
May (as Rolande Amin)
Carmen Lebbos ...
Hala Noueri - Tarek's mother (as Carmen Loubbos)
Joseph Bou Nassar ...
Riad Noueri - Tarek' father (as Joseph Nassar)
Liliane Nemri ...
Neighbor (as Liliane Nemry)
Leïla Karam ...
Oum Walid - the madame (as Leila Karam)
Mahmoud Mabsout ...
Hassan - the baker
Hassan Farhat ...
Roadblock Militiaman
Fadi Abou Khalil ...
Bakery Militiaman (as Fadi Abi Samra)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Abla Khoury


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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Romance | War


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

30 October 1998 (Norway)  »

Also Known As:

West Beirut  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$27,157 (USA) (3 September 1999)


$343,229 (USA) (22 September 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 »


Chevrolet M1008 Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicles - a militarized 5/4 ton version of the third generation Chevrolet C/K pickup - are seen in the movie, which was supposed to have taken place in 1975. The Chevrolet M1008 did not enter production until 1984. See more »


References Airport 1975 (1974) See more »


Ya doray Shami
Performed by les Musiciens du Nil
See more »

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User Reviews

Lacking a strong narrative but is still an interesting personal film with a good sense for time and place
20 January 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In 1974's Beirut Tarek is a normal kid – making Super 8 movies, hanging out with friend Omar and getting in trouble at school. Conflicts are fun distractions and even when civil war proper erupts between Muslims and Christians, it is all still a bit of a game to Tarek, giving him time off school and interesting things to see. However with the city split in two, Tarek's mother wants to leave but his father insists they will be fine to stay. Meanwhile Tarek befriends May, a Christian girl living in his building; but as the conflict deepens tensions rise and the war becomes less of a game and more of a tragedy.

I am usually interested in films that draw on personal experience because sometimes they can be very enjoyable and interesting and I accept the risk that some will be so personal that the director/writer loses sight of what he is doing and will make a film that doesn't translate well to those without the same degree of personal insight. So with West Beyrouth I was interested enough already and wasn't coming to it as some of the Tarantino completest that seem to have seen it. The film deals with a time and a place that I will not claim to fully understand or even know that much about – I have always been more interesting in political/religious wars that are closer to home for me than in the complexities of the Middle East etc but this film doesn't concern itself with making points; it is more about growing up during this time.

As such I felt it missed out on a chance to provide a wider understanding, although it did open the doors for a more personal view of the conflict. As the latter the film does work pretty well as I can't really think of another "coming-of-age" story set in such a place. The problem with it though is that, like a "you had to be there" joke, it doesn't totally translate to the screen in terms of being an engaging narrative. Yes, the period and place are very well delivered and the direction is blessed with real experience but the story didn't draw me in and it did feel like a collection of personal memories, strung together the best they could have been but not really that good a story. The cast are also pretty mixed. The director's own brother, Rami, is quite good in the lead but he is more "in" the scenes rather than being of great interest himself – or rather, I didn't feel he enabled me to emotionally buy into the film. Al Amin is gorgeous and seems a lot more natural, shame the film didn't use her more. Chamas was selected for the role after picking a fight with the crew and he is generally good enough to do the job, but for large sections it does feel like he is trying too hard and maybe overdoing his delivery. Supporting roles are all OK but these three were the key and they were generally OK if not anything wonderful.

Overall this is an OK film that is an interesting enough look at the conflict from the point of view of trying to grow up in it. The direction is good and has a personal touch along with a good eye for time and place but as writer Doueiri isn't as confident and his collection of memories don't manage to come together in an engaging narrative. Worth watching once if you're after a "teen" film that is different from the usual US collection of jocks and nerds, but not a completely satisfying film on the whole.

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