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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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Revealing a true side of the Lebanese war.

Author: anonymous from Lebanon
30 October 1998

This is the story of two teenagers whose first reaction is to love their country torn apart because they don't have to go to school and they can hang around all day.

This situation soon turns to tragedy when they start losing what they cherish the most: freedom of belief, friends, welfare, dignity...

This film gives a new and true perspective of what most wars are about: a bunch of warriors and a lot of victims.

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A story of two friends during the Lebanese civil war

Author: karls from Beirut
5 October 1998

The film is a story of two young friends during the early years of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990.) The film traces the story of the two young boys and the way their daily life is affected by the war. It is both a historic documentation and a tale of friendship in a time of crises and violence.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

an epic of childhood in a brutal war

10/10
Author: ahmad-wehbe from United States
16 January 2006

Any one who has lived in Lebanon and tasted the bitter suffering of its civil war would understand this movie and relate to it. It makes you smile and cry. Mr Douairy, you touched my heart and soul.

The movie depicts the innocence of children in a brutal war, the hope where no one had any. In a time where every one was living to survive the day, in a time where hope had disappeared, in a time where the Lebanese spirit and nationality were thought to be lost forever, innocence conquered all.

It is a story of love and determination. West Beirut also concentrated on our families' suffering in a war that we had nothing to do with, a war that barged into every home and left a deep wound in every heart.

a message to Lebanon, let's not go there again. Long live our land free and prosperous

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A Different Side of War

10/10
Author: jncherabie from Lebanon
20 July 2005

'West Beirut', the debut film from Ziad Doueiri, tells the story of three friends,two boys and a girl, who live in the recently divided West side of Beirut. These characters are equipped with nothing but their bikes and their Super 8 camera. We follow them through their daily lives and watch as the world around them changes with the Lebanese Civil War. Fighter Planes flying over, visits to the bomb shelter, and armed men patrolling the streets all become parts of their daily lives. This movie shows the slow devastation of a once proud country and its people through the people's point of view, but most of all it shows that civil war is fought by the consensus of the people in the country, on the contrary, the civilians are victims trying to survive without ammunition. These people are sitting in their homes with their families, going out and buying groceries, hanging out with their friends, but are considered the enemy because of their religion. Slowly, war begins to change these once carefree characters and movie shifts to become a coming of age story with the backdrop of a broken city. These characters introduce you to the other side of war and depict the effects of war on their surroundings and everyone around them.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Amazing portrayal of Lebanon's struggle

10/10
Author: dan-1060 from United States
28 March 2005

I've only seen this movie after recently spending 2 months in Lebanon and studying a great deal about it's history, culture, diversity, politics, and conflicts. I'd like to think that I've developed some understanding of the Lebanese people and of Lebanon as a country.

From this perspective, I thought West Beirut was an absolutely amazing film that touched on so many different elements of the struggles Lebanon faced, and in many ways continues to face.

There are so many subtleties in the film that would be difficult to grasp without an understanding of Lebanon and the conflict. For example, when Hala, Tarek's mother, decides to leave Beirut, she grabs a roll of Syrian currency from the desk drawer, leaving the Lebanese currency behind. The discussion between Tarek and his father whether they are Arab or Lebanese/Phoenician is very typical of the identity crisis facing the Lebanese, some of whom identify with neighboring Arab countries, others whom identify more with the West. Tarek's father talks reminiscently about the Arab nationalist movement and their struggle against imperialism, and feels helpless about what has happened to his country. There is the element of pride which the Lebanese show for their country, which can be incredibly powerful.

This movie certainly isn't for anyone, but I really felt it encapsulated so much of the Lebanon that I have come to know and feel for in my time there. I felt like all the characters were people I had met, all the words spoken were things I had heard, and the portrayal of Beirut was often so reminiscent of the city I experienced.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Lacking a strong narrative but is still an interesting personal film with a good sense for time and place

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
20 January 2005

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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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Stunning - I Highly Recommend This One

9/10
Author: David (davidals@msn.com) from Chapel Hill, NC, USA
30 November 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen WEST BEIRUT several times at this point - it has become one of my fave recent world films, and made me curious to see what other Lebanese films I might've missed out on.

*MINOR SPOILERS*

An extremely accomplished debut from Lebanese-American filmmaker Ziad Douieri, WEST BEIRUT is loosely patterned after Francois Truffaut's 400 BLOWS, and blends a similar tale of growing up in troubled or uncertain settings, with a detailed examination of a nation collapsing into a civil war of extraordinary violence. The film does demand a little knowledge of history from the audience - actual events not depicted in the film are occasionally referred to in passing, which isn't really a weakness, though WEST BEIRUT (the title of the film refers to the partitioning of the city into Christian and Moslem enclaves) doesn't spoon-feed anything either.

The slice-of-life, episodic nature of the film is perfectly suited to the material - the film follows a downward narrative trajectory from adventure and youthful mischief towards tragedy - with many moments reflective a splintering world around you, but many moments that you can immediately identify with.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

consecrated!

9/10
Author: wakid_y from Israel
8 January 2006

i would never believe, how is the way Bayrouth was before the 1975s civil war, just when i saw this movie with couple of friends i just recognize the fortune in beside living.. this movie if full of information in beside the incredible actors. i really admit this is the best Arabian movie i ever seen. the motion of the wide civilization of the Mediterranean nation may become over the history pages, many information may disappear by time, this movie West Bayrouth supposed to re-inform the watchers of the tiny covers of the history whom frayed and frazzled by the recent conflicts. i advice to see the film! Just consecrate

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A good piece of cinema

7/10
Author: sajmal23 from United Kingdom
25 October 2005

I recently saw this movie on DVD and it was quite interesting and in a way moving. Although the movie could have been better such as more of the conflict could have been shown there were many moving parts such as the shooting of the bus. The movie shows what the Lebanese people had to go through under french rule. I would recommend it as its a good piece of history. The movie which begins in a school with mixed Christians and muslims was interesting and the fact that a Christian girl becomes best friends with two muslims just shows its not always about religion. Now though Lebanon is a mixed country with both Christians and muslims in harmony lets hope another civil war doesn't break out.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Roberto Beningi should watch this movie.

Author: MubukuGrappa from Losa Angelosa
13 October 2005

And I'm sure, he would learn a thing or two about how to make a satirical comedy based on war. This non-showy, unpretentious movie shows how one can make a fine satirical movie based on a war, and at the same time make people think. To me, this is a very realistic movie disguised in the form of comedy that satires everything. And this is a movie filled with pretty accurate political commentary too. As an outsider, and one whose knowledge of the whole Middle-East conflict is mainly book-based, and yet one who lived there for a part of his life, I think what this movie shows exactly how things are screwed up. Lebanon, in spite of not being directly involved in a war with Israel, had to bear its wrath because Syria has used Lebanese soil for decades to fight with Israel, and Israel retaliated (and used some of the Lebanese waring groups). Over the years, the big-mouthed Arab leaders did a lot of lip service and yet did not do anything significant for the Palestinians in real terms. Actually it was Jordan, the poorest country of that region, which ever agreed to accept Palestinian refugees. And the sum total of this was that countries like Lebanon had to bear the brunt of it. I loved this movie; it's a very nice movie and it tackles many issues without being preachy.

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