The film that began shooting only 10 days after the 2006 July War between Israel and Lebanon, has made its rounds this past year through the various film festivals. Nevertheless, it has yet to reach its potential here in the Middle East, which is unfortunate for such a powerful film. Native Lebanese filmmaker, Philippe Aractingi, used only two actors to pull of this film shot entirely during the war, with the battlefield that was South Lebanon as his stage. People featured throughout the film, including priests, journalists, ordinary citizens, widows, and soldiers, are all real and are not acting. And somewhere between all the real wartime footage of bombs going off and homes crumbling, there is a fictional story of a woman who comes back to Lebanon by way of Dubai, in search of her lost son who she sent to spend the summer with her sister in the south. The film begins as she arrives in Beirut via Turkey, where she finds no driver willing to risk venturing in to the south. Enter George, who sympathizes with the mother and also sees a lucrative opportunity.
The film traces their journey to the south and as Zeina, played by Nada Abu Farhat, scrambles from one place to another asking random people if they’ve seen her son Karim. In the process, her search ends up being a way for random people to tell their own stories about the people they’ve also lost, or, are still looking for.
At times, the film was too bogged down with unnecessary dialog. Shot documentary-style, it would’ve been more effective to let the images and the expressions to speak for themselves without having the characters break the silence all the time. Nevertheless, the very notion that the whole thing was shot during a war is enough to captivate an audience. At the same time, this may have served as a bit of a disadvantage since filming during a war from an obvious frame-of-mind will affect the outcome, leaving a film like Under The Bombs and very angry statement to the Israeli aggression. All other messages in such a storm become clouded – messages that include telling a human story of a mother searching for her child; ignoring religion, divisions, politicians and everything else that often dominates our perspectives when it comes to war.
But the environment makes for interesting filming, as usually we never get to see what the setting for war is really like unless we live it, see it on TV or in a movie made years and years from now. This is a film that captures a bleeding Lebanon with images, sounds and tales.
I should note that the DVD copy available in the balad is subtitled in German. So if you don’t understand spoken Arabic, then polish up your German reading skills.