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: ...
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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
'Mohammad Chamas' who played Omar in the movie was discovered by accident. At one time while the crew was preparing the set and not having found an actor to play Omar, Mohammed was passing by and he had a fight with one of the crew members. The director noticed him and immediately asked him to play the character. After having lived in an orphanage most of his life, becoming a lead in a motion picture was an important change of pace. 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 »
Ya doray Shami
Performed by les Musiciens du Nil See more »
A tender, honest, visually enthralling look at Beirut in 1975 through the eyes of adventurous teens
Ziad Doueiri, whose credentials as a cameraman include "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown", crafts one of the most memorable directorial debuts of the 90's in this coming of age tale set in Beirut in 1975 after the civil war breaks out. The film is a remarkably realistic (and obviously autobiographical) portrayal of a Beirut at the time as well as the numerous social and religious rifts in Lebanese culture, but is mostly focused on the experiences of three teenagers, Tarek (the main character, played by the director's brother Rami), Omar (his friend), and May, a Christian girl who recently moved to Beirut.
That is what makes this film completely unique among those centered on Middle Eastern political and relgious issues, that it uses three young characters who are just beginning to explore life and sex to look at the issues that keep Lebanon so fractured to this day. It's through their relatively innocent eyes that much of the ugliness of war is portrayed in the film, and the scenes with them are far more affecting than those with Tarek's parents or any of the other supporting characters simply because Doueiri expertly captures the initial playfulness of their movement through the city and how naive their view of war is, only for them to slowly realize how serious the situation is (at one point Omar and Tarek join in a rally without knowing the implications of what they were calling for, only for the rally to be attacked by militants. The group's innocence is completely lost in a remarkable scene where the three attempt to get a Super 8 film developed only to come across a group of fervent Islamist militants, who capture them and are literally seconds away from discovering the cross May wears around her neck, the equivalent of a death sentence at the time, before Omar talks them into releasing the three. Doueiri claims this incident actually occurred.
Doueiri's style is loose and liberated, obviously influenced by the French New Wave and featuring excellent use of hand-held camera. Anyone expecting a concise, tight narrative will be disappointed, as "West Beyrouth" (the title is a reflection of how frequently and interchangeably French and English are used in Lebanon in place of Arabic) is a loosely-knit, episodic sort of film which suits the nature of its story very well.
What is really refreshing about this film is that it has absolutely no political agenda to push, it is purely about the characters and about how normal citizens are affected by this sort of guerrilla warfare. The film is remarkably human in its approach and execution, never attempting to be a tear-jerker and always maintaining a sense of humor (not one always well-captured by the English subtitles, which are otherwise serviceable), which only makes the drama seem more real when it does occur, not that much of this film is fiction. An outstanding debut from a gifted director.
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