Probably one of the best viewings that I have had in a long time. This Lebanese gem was nominated in the Oscars in the foreign language nominated category.
I would go to the extent of saying that this movie deserves to be in the classroom of all aspiring filmmakers. Whether it is the story, screenplay, directing or the acting, it excels in every front.
The screenplay is perhaps one of the best I have seen.
While the story if of Lebanon in the 70’s, when the country is flooded with Palestine refugees, it is a universal story that perhaps is as relevant today as it was then.
Forty percent of Lebanon’s population is of Christians and Palestinian refugees comprise of ten percent of the population.
A forty something mechanic, Tony Hanna, a right-wing Christian with a pregnant wife, is watering his plants in the balcony. The water from the plants, seeps through the gutter pipe, installed illegally on to the road on some construction crew. The foreman, Yasser Salameh [solid understated acting and winner of best actor in 74th Venice film festival], observes the pipe and offers to fix it. However Tony, slams the door on him. Why he slams the door on him, is something that you realise later in the movie.
Yasser still goes ahead and fixes it. Tony sees that the pipe is fixed, and he breaks it. Yasser sees this and calls him a “fucking prick”.
Tony is infuriated and demands an apology. Yasser’s boss tries to mediate, and convinces an reluctant Yasser to accompany him to Tony’s garage and make him apologise. Tony’s TV in the garage is on, a right wing speech to throw out the Palestinians is being aired. Tony rants and tells Yasser “I wish Ariel Sharon had wiped you all out”. On hearing this, a seething Yasser punches him in the gut and leaves without apologising.
The above is followed by a top-notch legal courtroom drama, that gives rise to riots in the streets of Lebanon, which however both the leads do not wish to happen. They in fact admonish their own lawyers, to not to humiliate and bring personal things out in the open in the court.
Today we see the same happening in our country, with hate speeches swaying our public and dividing them in the middle. Perfectly normal people do not think twice before uttering rubbish and spoiling relations.
The insecurity felt by the majority and the helplessness felt by the minority, especially if they are refugees, is perhaps highlighted the best in this movie, through a petty fight that escalates into a personal and political fight between two communities in a nation. Sounds familiar ?
This is one movie which perhaps with it’s content will always remain prevalent. I will definitely be watching out for director Ziad Doueiri’s filmography.