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Breaking the silence of the Lebanese civil war

About a War
Regissør: Daniele Rugo Abi Weaver

THE WAR IN LEBANON / About a War shows how understanding history can contribute to reconciliation and progress in a society where it is still taboo to talk about the past.


Lebanon's capital Beirut is alive
still in some ways up to its reputation as Middle Eastern Paris. Street Cafes,
fashion-conscious young people, exciting food traditions and many cultural offerings
attracts tourists from all over the world. But behind it all lies a pain and
a bloody past that is rarely talked about. The documentary About a War gives us a
unique insight into the recent history and character of this city and this country. It is
a strong portrait of three warriors, a nation, justice and hope.

What makes some people take up arms and go to war? And what happens to them when the war is over? ask the directors in this movie.

It has been estimated that the Lebanese civil war, which took place between 1975 and 1990, claimed 170 lives, while more than 000 million people became refugees. 1 people are still missing. It was just before the war that this small, lively country tore into rubbish, something many Norwegians are well aware of. Norwegian peacekeeping forces were deployed in southern Lebanon between 17 and 000.

One country, many cultures

Lebanon is a result of the happy days of colonialism and later imperialism, first under Ottoman rule and then under the French. Neighboring Syria has always believed that the country belonged to them, but in 1946 Lebanon became an independent state, with different ethnic groups, such as Druze, Christian Maronites, Shiites and Sunnis. The fragile balance between Christian and Muslim groups led to armed confrontations in 1975 that ended in full-blown civil war.

The large Palestinian refugee population that had flowed to Lebanon from 1948 onwards took part in the war through its own guerrilla groups. This eventually led to interventions from both Israel and Syria and ended, among other things, with the massacres of the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

The war is a persistent wound in the Lebanese soul.

The so-called Taif Agreement from 1990
signaled the end of the war, and the warring parties were integrated into
an intelligent management system. All religious groupings got their positions and
its "power fraction" to deal with. An amnesty was introduced, and many by
the guerrillas slipped back into society, but without any kind of follow-up.

Today, Lebanon remains deeply divided
society. In addition, there is a large degree of foreign interference in the interior
affairs. New militia groups have emerged, such as Hezbollah, with their close associates
ties to the regimes in Syria and Iran respectively. In addition, over one now lives
million Syrian refugees in the country.

An important contribution to modern history writing

The war is a persistent wound in the Lebanese soul. This film is therefore important, both as a time frame and as a reflection. Interviews with academics along the way give us the necessary historical context.

Filmmakers Daniele Rugo and Abi Weaver have spent three years on a continuous commute between London and Beirut, where they sank testimony from victims, aid organizations and ex-warriors.

About a War
Directors Daniele Rugo and Abi Weaver

The film is a continuous conversation and
self-reflection with a focus on three actors from the civil war:
The intelligence officer Assad belonged to the right-wing Christian militia,
Ahed is a Palestinian refugee and guerrilla fighter, while Nassim is a communist,
commander and warrior.

We quickly get an insight into the personal
the motivation of each individual. They believe blindly in their group, in their uniqueness
history, and that what they are doing is for the good of Lebanon. It is all mixed together
pan-Arab currents, distinctive Palestinian needs and a separate Lebanese one

Nassim, the former communist fighter,
says: “It was as if the war just came to me. I felt this was mine
opportunity to change things. An opportunity to escape the eternal striving away from
problems and thereby overcome the eternal feeling of defeat.”

About a War get very well
bring out the personal motivation of the three warriors one
once had. Today they are traumatized. Their original view of "the other" has
changed. They see no joy in war, only destruction.

Today, all three ex-fighters are involved in
various forms of social civil society projects. Among other things, they work with young people
people to warn them against one-sided negative perceptions of others. The movie
therefore becomes an important contribution to modern historiography in a country that has
cast a veil of silence over what happened. They see for themselves that the story is
far more complex than what they themselves understood in their younger days. It's this one
the understanding that has become their "salvation".

Hard to reconcile with the past

About a War is a fine "sequel" to one of last year's most interesting films, the Lebanese film insult. It was first shown during Arab Film Days in Oslo and later put on regular cinema.

Director Ziad Doueiri made a powerful film based on a small quarrel between two men on the street in Beirut, a conflict that is gradually becoming something Lebanon is dealing with. The film provided an emotional and artistic insight into the inflamed relationship between different cultures and was Oscar-nominated for best foreign language film.

About a War
Directors Daniele Rugo and Abi Weaver

insult is a fictional film that shows how difficult it is to reconcile
with the past, in a society where old wounds have not yet healed. We
follows the figure Tony Hanna,
a proud Christian Lebanese with a grudge against
Palestinians, and the Palestinian Yasser Salameh, and soon the two end up in one
situation escalating. And as the film progresses, we gradually understand that
it is about the wounds and traumas of the past. That which is never spoken

The past is
still controversial in Lebanon. When the Paris-based Doueiri went to his
homeland to celebrate the premiere, he was imprisoned at Beirut airport. He
was accused of unnational behavior by filming in Israel.
Someone wanted to put him on trial for treason. Several believed that his film i
itself was an insult.

insult was a fictional film. It showed us
how mundane details can keep alive an ongoing tragedy. About a War is, however, based on facts. It is
even stronger. The film shows us how self-awareness and the desire to understand each other
yourself and history can contribute to reconciliation and progress. Maybe it can help
the Lebanese people to gain increased self-awareness and
more transparency about the war?

Film is a powerful medium. Sometimes it can be the purest truth serum.

The film's website.

avatar photos
Andrew P. Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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