The Movie Waffler First Look Review - 1982 | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - 1982

1982 lebanese movie review
As war rages outside his classroom, a young Lebanese boys attempts to pluck up the courage to profess his love for a classmate.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Oualid Mouaness

Starring: Mohamad Dalli, Nadine Labaki, Rodrigue Sleiman, Gia Madi, Ghassan Maalouf

1982 lebanese movie review

When I was a kid in the 1980s, "Beirut" was a pejorative term used to describe a "bad" neighbourhood. I lived on an estate that had a bad reputation, and whenever I invited classmates over to my house they would usually refuse, claiming my neighbourhood was "like Beirut." Sure, my estate was home to some dodgy characters, and my friends' fathers would often suspiciously disappear for long "stretches" of time, but as a resident I never felt personally endangered living there. None of us could point Lebanon out on a map, never mind having any understanding of the nuances of the ongoing conflict in the region - it was just a place that chain-smoking presenters on the News kept telling us was a hellhole. Ironically, this was a time when Ireland was viewed by many foreigners in similar fashion to the Lebanon. When immigrants began arriving in Dublin en masse in the '90s, I would often be asked what it was like to grow up in Ireland at the height of "The Troubles", and I would have to politely explain that with the odd exception, "The Troubles" had as much impact on the average Dubliner as it did on a resident of Dallas or Dusseldorf. Like my neighbourhood, my country had a bad reputation, but for me it was just where I lived, and I had as good a childhood as anyone could hope for.

1982 lebanese movie review

I wonder if the residents of Beirut were aware that strangers in far off lands were employing the name of their city in such a demeaning manner. With his directorial debut, 1982Oualid Mouaness draws on his childhood in a corner of the world that like Ireland, was viewed with pity by the rest of the world. Just as "The Troubles" was something I only saw on the News, for 10-year-old Wissam (Mohamad Dalli), the Lebanese civil war is just something he occasionally hears about on the radio. As a resident of East Beirut, the war - six years old at this point - is considered a West Beirut problem.

Even as the sound of bombs grow less distant, Wissam's mind is occupied by a more pressing West Beirut problem. He's madly in love with classmate Joana (Gia Madi), but can't pluck up the courage to profess his feelings. As she lives in West Beirut and checkpoint crossings between the disparate halves of the city are rumoured to soon be shut off, Wissam knows he needs to act quickly before his school is inevitably shut down, but he can only bring himself to leave an anonymous note in Joana's locker, leading to his nerdy friend Majid (Ghassan Maalouf) being wrongly identified as the culprit. When Israeli and Syrian fighter planes begin duelling in the skies above the school, the kids are rounded onto buses, and Wissam knows he must act quickly or possibly lose Joana forever.

1982 lebanese movie review

Using a civil war as the backdrop for a coming-of-age romance runs the risk of being exploitative and offensive, but Mouaness hits on a truth about the combination of resilience and ignorance that gets kids through such times. At time of writing we're in the middle of a pandemic that has already claimed more civilian lives than WWII in most countries, but children have been sent to school through most of it. I imagine for most kids, COVID-19 is as "The Troubles" was for me, something you hear adults talking about but which has no effect on your own day to day concerns. As we watch the final act of 1982, in which worried teachers scramble to get their young charges onto buses and back to the uncertainty of their homes, it's unbearably tense because we fear for their safety, but also because we're so invested in Wissam's quest to spill his guts to Joana. In the grand scheme of things, this is a trifling matter, but for Wissam it means everything, and as we're currently seeing with COVID-19, the relatively silly little things that get us through the day become all the more important in times of crisis.

Wissam's story is offset against the damaged relationship between two of his teachers - Yasmine (Nadine Labaki) and Joseph (Rodrigue Sleiman). The former has buried her head in the sand where the war is concerned, her naivete highlighted when a young pupil has to tell her she should keep the classroom's windows open in case an explosion makes the glass shatter. The latter is immersed in the conflict, a transistor radio constantly tuned to the News pressed to his ears at all times. Their differing attitudes to the state of their country threatens to tear them apart until the bombs arrive on their doorstep and Yasmine realises the war isn't going to go away just because she ignores it. Boy, it's crazy how much this scenario mirrors the COVID-19 crisis, which has spawned its own civil war of sorts, fought (thankfully) mostly online between factions cherry-picking "science" to suit their political agenda.

1982 lebanese movie review

Mouaness has achieved something of a marvel with his remarkably accomplished debut. He's crafted a story set in a part of the world synonymous with hardship, but from the first frame it's clear he's not interested in our pity. The opening montage of drone shots paints Beirut as a place of stunning natural and architectural wonder (and in the midst of an Irish winter it made me envious of its baking sun), and when his camera settles on a school playground we quickly forget the film's unique setting as it focusses on a story of universal concern, of one person trying to find the words to tell someone else they're glad they exist. As COVID-19 has made us all a little more aware of our mortality, and that of our loved ones, Wissam's romantic odyssey is one we can all get behind.

 is on US VOD from January 19th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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