April 16, 2009 -- This journey into darkness transmits its twin tales of personal loss and political strife with equal dexterity. It is a road trip worth taking. Set during a UN-ordered cease fire following the Israeli-Lebanon conflict of 2006, the film follows Zeina (Nada Abou Farhat) a distraught mother, and Tony (Georges Khabbaz) a Christian taxi driver, as they wander through the battle-scarred territory of southern Lebanon, looking for Zeina's missing son, Karim. Tony and Zeina are slowly drawn together during this difficult journey. Everywhere there is massive destruction, suffering and loss. As the film's end credits roll, it says simply, “Under the bombs, most were crushed to death. It is for them this film was made, to tell the suffering of the innocents.” This 2007 film, being released as part of the film movement collection, was Lebanon's submission to the Academy Awards.
Most taxi drivers will not take Zeina into southern Lebanon because it is too dangerous. Tony agrees to go, for a price, and he has some ideas how to make the trip even more profitable by selling medicines to refugees. Zeina is not your typical Shiite woman. At the beginning she is wearing a fashionable dress with plenty of cleavage and a skirt slit to the hip, showing off her beautiful body. She doesn't even wear a head scarf, but she does a major wardrobe change halfway through the trip. She suddenly emerges like a butterfly reverse metamorphosed into a caterpillar, with a more traditional Arabic look. Tony is attracted to her, but she remains aloof early on during the journey, spending a lot of time on her mobile phone, tracking down leads. Zeina and her husband had recently separated. She had left her son with her sister, Maha in Kherbet Selm, Lebanon while she was staying in Dubai. Zeina had hoped to keep her son away from the troubles between her and her husband, not knowing she was putting Karim in danger. Zeina is told by survivors that her sister has been killed, but that her son survived, but was moved to another town. Doggedly, Zeina and Tony follow the trail of the boy to a series of refugee camps, hospitals and monasteries.
Along their journey, Tony and Zeina talk to a number of local people about the war. A picture of the war and Mideast politics emerge. Tony has a major argument with old friends who plan to work in Israel, working for the enemy. Both Tony and Zeina grew up in southern Lebanon and both are in love with the area, and both of them bemoan the fact that because of the recurring wars and battles, it is no longer a safe place to live. They stop at a bombed out gas station. The owner says she will rebuild as soon as her son, who works abroad, sends her more money. Others point out they can rebuild their houses, but they can't replace the lives that were lost in the war. Most war movies don't cover this painful subject, the loss of the innocents, but this film does. Attention must be paid. This film rates an A.
Also on the same Film Movement DVD is an award-winning short film from Poland, “Porn” and a clever, award-winning commercial for Stella Artois Beer (a sponsor of the Film Movement series) called “Race.” “Porn” is not about pornography at all. It is a coming of age story about a young man and young woman coming to terms with sexuality and their feelings for each other. There is no explicit sexuality in the five-minute film, but sex is talked about very openly. It is moving and insightful. For more on the Film Movement series, check out the official Film Movement website.
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