1982 @ TIFF

Over on this side of the world we aren’t really aware of the complexities of Middle Eastern politics. We just see it superficially. See ongoing war and violence just saying it should stop. It is not so simple. A lot has gone into getting them where they are now. A lot is going to have to go into gaining peace in that region.

One of the very things which has contributed to the fractured nature of the Middle East is the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel. They arrived in 1982 and did not leave until 1986. Not something you would expect anyone, especially the people being occupied, to just forget.

Director Oualid Mouaness’s (first feature film) 1982 is about that very invasion. Yet is a backdrop to a couple of very beautiful stories about love. Mature love and first love. Both have to overcome obstacles of different sorts, but both having to do with the invasion in one way or another.

Lebanon, which was just recovering from a civil war, was on the brink of plunging back into a conflict. This time with an external foe in Israel. As the Israelis are entering the country, everyone is on edge. At a small school in the mountains outside of Beirut, students are beginning to write their final exams. Teacher Yasmine (Nadine Labaki – Capernaum, Caramel) is trying to keep her grade six students focused on their exams.

Her own concentration is divided as her father is in the hospital and her brother Georges (Said Serhan – Maki & Zorro, Solitaire) is involved in the resistance. Plus a burgeoning romance with fellow teacher (Rodrigue Sleiman) seems to have hit a road bump as they have very different opinions about what Lebanon should do.

Young love is also in the air as student Wissam (Mohamad Dalli – first film) wants to let a classmate (Gia Madi – first film) know that he likes her. Love is in the air at the same time as fighter planes and bombs. Tricky times.

Yes, the biggest film name out of Lebanon, Oscar nominee, Nadine Labaki, is in this film, but truth be told, it is the young actors who steal the show. Not that Labaki is poor, just that they are that good. They hand in performances which will really move you. Not only the two main young actors, but also the ones who portray their friends, Majid (Ghassan Maalouf) and Abir (Leyla Harkous). They bring a quality to the film that is at the same time childlike as well as wise beyond their years. They make us feel how they are going to be forced into adulthood not only by the burgeoning hormones, but also due to what is about to happen in Lebanon.

An autobiographical labour of love by the director, this film took him eight years to make. That is longer than many relationships, so obviously he was in love. In love with telling this story. And it shows in the work. The depth he brings to each of his characters, major and minor, is impressive. We feel, in a relatively short time, like we have come to know them and that alone is a triumph.