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West Beyrouth (À l'abri les enfants)
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Reviews & Ratings for
West Beirut More at IMDbPro »West Beyrouth (À l'abri les enfants) (original title)

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Thank God for Indie Movie Channels and the Indies they show

10/10
Author: CullenCooks from West Hollywood, Ca.
30 October 2002

Thank God for IFC and the Sundance Channel here in the U.S. Without these two channels, there are so many films that I otherwise would never have known about less alone actually watched: especially living in the heart of Los Angeles, Studio Capital of the World. I was lucky enough though to stumble upon West Beirut and I just fell in love with it. Somebody in the user comments section said that it was "a very beautiful and funny film if you are arabic", but I'd have to strongly disagree because as a westerner and and an american I found it perhaps even more funny and beautiful as a result of where I come from. Not to get into politics, but it's kind of hard not to, it is so refreshing and wonderful and eye opening to see a film with arab characters in their homeland living their lives the way they really did and would instead of only knowing that part of the world from the violence that is constantly strewn about on the evening news and the constant 'propaganda machine' of american media which seems to be totally controlled and run nowadays by corporations and pharmaceutical companies. This movie, for me, just reinforced the idea that we are all alike no matter where we live on this planet and I find it sad to think that the only way I have to find out and appreciate a history lesson on Beirut or the life of the lebanese is through a film. Being an american, if you listen to our government at all, it would be a really bad idea to travel to the middle east. And so without films like this, it would be impossible for me to experience the oneness of all of us or a glimpse of a country and it's culture. What a beautiful idea it would be to cut out the Bush administration and all the other governments for a month out of the year and allow everyone from each country to go and look at the other side. I think we'd all benefit strongly. Until then, I'll thank movies like West Beirut for being made and allowing me the luxury of being part of another world for a couple of hours.

A great film.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

What is your activation energy?

10/10
Author: Kal Masri (Komombo) from San Diego, California
24 September 1999

I have seen this movie several times, the first time at a private screening in Los Angeles. It was a powerful experience shared by the many attendees that connected and understood this movie in a very special way. The roller coaster of emotions (sadness, laughter, anger, hope, despair, etc.) left me so exhausted I literally needed an energy bar afterwards.

There are a few things I MUST say about this movie. First, it is an excellent work overall, light with its humor, touching with its sincerity, striking with its honesty, and plain good looking and sounding (hats off to the awesome tracks by Stewart Copeland, the man is a genius). Second, this movie is not only a Herculean first effort for Director/Writer Ziad Doueiri (who had to seek funding and support from around the globe), but also the first respectable and universal Lebanese film to invade the world cinematic circuit. Third, the movie's inaccuracies are irrelevant especially to a worldwide audience that seeks entertainment and dramatic content; and this movie achieves both with adeptness. If you are a history buff and/or have zero tolerance for fiction and poetry (in pictures, words, and music) then this movie is not for you.

I wondered after the screening what it was that moved me to tears in West Beirut, and I could not remember one single moment. I later realized that this movie did for me (a Lebanese that grew up in the west part of Beirut during the war) what no other movie has done before it: tell OUR story. I felt like a released prisoner, like a person who regained the ability to speak after years of silence, like....you get the idea. The sad thing is that very few in the Western hemisphere either really cared or understood the Lebanese people or their war experience, but this movie opens a big door and sheds a great light into one of the many dark corners of this Middle Eastern region.

For the "universal" emigrant (whether Lebanese or Bosnian or Kosovar)this movie is a must see; it offer a lifeline to those with a past that is both lamented and cherished. As to the rest of you out there, this movie is not only highly entertaining, but also a refreshing and necessary look at a people and area of the world that have been unfortunately misunderstood and maligned for years. So kill your TV for one night and activate your energy to go see this movie, you will not regret it.

Ziad and West Beirut deserve big applause and respect for what they have achieved. They have broken barriers (how many Lebanese movies have you seen lately?), taboos ("In the West we are called camel jockeys"), and Western perceptions of the Lebanese in general. I frankly can't wait to see the fruits of Ziad's next film. Hurry man, We need the fix!

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

First Class cinema

10/10
Author: Cedrus
15 July 2003

I wouldn't know how a non-Lebanese would look at this film. But to me, it's a very personal movie because I've lived similar events, even if 10 years later. It's definitely one of my favourite movies. And I have to say that the 3 leads have done great jobs for first-timers. "Carmen Lebbos" as the mother was superb, but my favourite character will always be "Leila Karam as" "Emm walid"

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Exhilarating and poignant, as the teen movie gives onto the war film.

8/10
Author: Alice Liddel (-darragh@excite.com) from dublin, ireland
9 April 2001

When making a film about divisive national conflicts, a familiar device is to frame the historical subject matter in a rites-of-passage narrative. This device produces a number of effects - a contrast between life as the audience knows it, and a historical reality they do not; by following a child's awakening, growing experience and knowledge of the world, it can reveal history and war as a lived experience, and not as something isolated in a textbook; it can show the progress of history as a kind of fall from innocence, as if any child's entering adulthood forces him to acknowledge shocking truths that are merely intensified in a war situation.

'West Beirut' tells the tale of Tarek, a gawky, humungously hootered smart aleck and class clown whom we first see disrupting assembly by blaring Lebanese over a megaphone during 'La Marseillaise'. For some reason, his liberal-left parents have sent him to a French school - this is the first historical nuance the viewer is expected to pick up on: if s/he doesn't, tough.

These opening sequences, messing about with his cousin Omar at school, furtively smoking and staring at attractive relatives, winding up obese neighbours, have something of the freewheeling joy found in a contemporaneous film about adolescence ('West Beirut' is set in 1975), Louis Malle's 'Murmur of the Heart'.

Except, even at this stage, everything is fraught, riven by division - the two languages Tarek speaks, the different religions among whom he co-exists; the different levels of space he inhabits. When he is punished and thrown out of class for disrupting the anthem, he witnesses the beginning of war, the shooting of the passengers on a bus. Again, we are expected to know which side is which, what they're fighting for etc. The main thing is, Tharek's expulsion and the beginning of the war seem to be intimately mixed, almost as if his transgression caused it; and so beings a pattern that shapes the film.

Everything you would expect from a rites-of-passage film is here, but tainted by the war environment - Tarek's first girlfriend is a Christian, making him aware of religious bigotry; his accidental visit to a brothel, his first sexual experience, brings alive to him the division of his city - it's always the subculture that suffers in situations like this. 1970s Lebanon is surprisingly Westernised and liberal, but a general retrenchment occurs, and Omar is expected to go to Mosque. It suddenly becomes dangerous to know the 'wrong' people, and the pressure of this division extends beyond friends into the family itself, between a pride that refuses to be bullied (Tarek's father), and a fear that just wants to get out (his mother).

One of the great things about this film is the way it brings you into a war situation - like us, the characters don't really know what's happening, they have no context - this is random, present-tense, frightening, where the morning cock crow is replaced by bombs as an alarm clock; where military 'protection' is no different from gangsterism. Doueiri's handheld style, used initially to heighten the vividness of youth, can easily adapt to the urgency of war, flitting between the two. The film never betrays either, never suggests childish games are somehow less important.

Omar is a young filmmaker, filming his friends and the city around him. One subplot centres around a film developer on the other side of the city border. A recurrent motif is of looking, being a voyeur, getting to know the world through accessing and interpreting visual information. This may be a biographical portrait of the director as a Young Artist. But, in its modest way, 'West Beirut' performs the same function as Nabokov's 'Speak Memory', using memory, nostalgia, autobiography, not as a comfy escape, but as an artistic weapon against a totalitarian present.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Great movie

10/10
Author: eido888
9 December 2002

I lived outside Lebanon my entire life. When I went back ten years after the war has ended, I saw a normal style of life. Although I have learned a lot about the civil through my dad and books, but I was not able to imagine the way the war was conducted. The weird incidents of two men talking to each other one day, and then killing each other the next day. I did not comprehend the killing of two Lebanese guys of each other due to different of religious sects. When I saw this movie with my dad, I felt a small gesture of sadness coming out of my father.

The details of the movie were close enough to the sad reality that happened in Lebanon. Even the militia check points were similar to the one my father told me about. The main characters in the movie were two Muslim boys and a Christian girl. Despite the lack of work, food, and other necessities, their families did not leave their houses. Ziad Doueiri, the writer and director imbedded a true concept of reality inside this movie. The innocence of the children playing around with no schools to go to and sometimes fall into dangerous situations made the movie more beautiful and gave it some sense of black satire.

The story involves mainly three kids. Tarek lives with his parents in West Beirut. He and his best friend Omar are filming films and yearning to unravel the mysteries of sex. They then meet Maya, a pretty Christian girl who moves into their neighbourhood. The three of them have several adventures in the chaotic streets patrolled by Muslim militias. Tarek's most exotic experience is a surprise visit to a famous bordello run by Madame Oum Walid where he learns that peace doesn't come easily when religious hatred is involved.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

EXCELLENT MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10/10
Author: mhellerman from Lincoln, NE
17 May 2003



This is a WONDERFUL movie, it is a historical glimpse on Lebanon, 1975, through the eyes of a teenager. If (usually) U.S. citizens ask themselves "how can "those people" live in "those countries"? This is the perfect answer to it. When you have a LIFE, FRIENDS, FAMILY, when you don't believe that things can be changed, when life is LIKE THAT, you accept things that you cannot change.

The protagonist (EXCELLENT actor Rami Doueiri) goes through life as a happy go lucky teenager, used to living under such political changes, but untouched by them. In this movie of "coming of age", you can follow him in his seamless transition into adulthood: the realization of what life has became.

PLEASE DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE - IT IS A MUST SEE - from any angle that you may want to look at it. You will gain different undertanding of things that you probably had before, if you are not a citizen from Lebanon, watch it and learn something.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Super movie, very "edutaining"

7/10
Author: ian_harris from London, England
23 July 2002

Well you certainly don't become an expert on Late 20th century Lebanese politics by watching this movie. But for those of us with an outside interest and a yawning gap of understanding and knowledge, this movie is superb "edutainment". It both educates and entertains.

The transition of the civil war through the eyes of these youngsters, as the movie goes on is moving. It starts off more or less as an adventure. It takes time to dawn on the characters that the civil war is tearing their lives apart.

The family debates about whether to stay or go are very moving. We know many people in the Lebanese community here in the UK, many of them (or their parents) must have gone through those heart-wrenching decisions back then.

The "romance" between the Muslim boy(s) and the Christian girl is also moving. It avoids the trap of descending into a Levantine Romeo & Juliet, however it seems a shame that the girl seems to just drift out of the story-line just at the point that we are all falling in love with her!

See it, it will be worth it.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Congrats on this truely poignant work

10/10
Author: Ould from Los Angeles
5 September 1999

rarely does one see a film that represent what is real behind a war. This movie takes a strikingly real look on what war is to the poeple that surround it, to the students that grow during it, and to the neighbourhoods that survive it. It vivaviously captures the hopeful streak of taking pleasure in existing no matter what the odds. Coming from a Lebanese director; it is a non-indulgent petite masterpiece that may just rescusitate a form of cinema with an honesty only yearned for in that part of the world.

Bravo.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The other side of war

9/10
Author: Sean Gallagher (seankgallagher@yahoo.com) from Brooklyn, NY
3 September 1999

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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Very true experience of the Lebanese civil war.

10/10
Author: Hani Frangi from Beirut, Lebanon
6 February 1999

West Beiruth is an excellent film. It reveals the true image of the civil war in Lebanon, through the eyes and adventures of two young friends, on the way to their adulthood. Experiencing love, friendship, a split society, and the horrors of war. West Beiruth is not a high budget movie, but it is very good in Directing, cinematography, script and acting. I would very much recommend it to everybody. It is a must see.

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