In Lebanon, the processing of a shared cultural past requires work — reconstruction, reimagining, and reorientation. These investigations unearth an often violent past. Still, they can be transcendent and life-affirming.
This month we turn our focus to the great Mediterranean country of Lebanon, a place with one of the richest cinema traditions in the Middle East and one its most violent recent pasts. Over the last couple of decades, Lebanese filmmakers have turned their gaze decisively towards this still-raw past — working through the imbricated layers of historical trauma that every Lebanese citizen is forced to process in their own way.
The Civil War of 1975-1990 resulted in a colossal amount of death and destruction, as well as the obliteration of Beirut's status as one of the cultural capitals of the world. Ever since the ceasefire brokered in 1989, the country has tried to rebuild and meditate on the devastation of their immediate past — all while responding to fresh crises and conflict with their neighbors and within their own borders. Last year saw giant public protests against the incompetent and corrupt Lebanese government spring to life in a spontaneous burst of anger and betrayal that rivals that of Hong Kong.
Each of these films reimagine and work through these painful memories and still-simmering political grievances in creative ways. Often it is only through indirect means — such as re-enactments, fantasies, or a simple digging through old posters pasted to city walls in search of familiar faces — that this anguish and remembrance can be adequately and intelligently expressed.
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