Appreciating Films: West Beyrouth (1998)

When I picked up West Beyrouth from our awesome DVD rental place, I thought it was a film about war in Lebanon and that the boy on the cover was holding a gun. Turns out it was a Super 8 camera and not a weapon (the way it should be). Oh, and yes, the film’s worth watching.

Film Poster via

The film is set in Lebanon of 1975. It tells the tale of a boy, his family and his country. There are a number of story line pockets, all beautifully intertwined. It treats war as a subject but does not dwell on atrocities. At times, it is comical, at others sad and haunting; but there is a romantic element which keeps the film relatively light without disregarding the ongoing war.

My favourite characters in this film must be the noisy, fat neighbor who is constantly nagging and screaming, and Oum Walid, the brothel Madam. Both are two facets of a woman’s character. The third would be Tarek’s mother, the generous and caring type.

Tarek’s Mother after a minor car crash via

Practically all the characters in this film are carefully crafted. They are individuals with personality traits that one can easily relate to, from the kind baker to the self-imposed neighborhood protector/bully.

The neighbourhood bully trying to extort the baker via
Tarek at the French school before the war broke out via

Basically, the story revolves around Tarek a young Lebanese boy and his best friend (the one who owns the Super 8 camera) who suddenly find themselves living in a city divided by war and religion.

Symbols and what they stand for via

From a lomographer’s point of view, what can be easily be related to (to a certain extent) is the journey the kids have to make in order to have their Super 8 film rolls developed. Suddenly, however, it becomes virtually impossible for them to do it as the lab is on the other side of the divide.

The Super 8 via

There are adventures and laughter along the way but I never stopped thinking what strength and courage it must take for someone to survive a situation like that one. The film’s worth watching. I recommend it.

Are you a film buff who found this article interesting? Go ahead and check out other articles from the Appreciating Films series!

written by webo29 on 2011-12-05 #lifestyle #religion #film #war #beirut #lomography #super-8 #analogue-lifestyle #requested #lebanon #appreciating-films-series

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