24 September 1999 | Komombo
What is your activation energy?
I have seen this movie several times, the first time at a private screening in Los Angeles. It was a powerful experience shared by the many attendees that connected and understood this movie in a very special way. The roller coaster of emotions (sadness, laughter, anger, hope, despair, etc.) left me so exhausted I literally needed an energy bar afterwards.
There are a few things I MUST say about this movie. First, it is an excellent work overall, light with its humor, touching with its sincerity, striking with its honesty, and plain good looking and sounding (hats off to the awesome tracks by Stewart Copeland, the man is a genius). Second, this movie is not only a Herculean first effort for Director/Writer Ziad Doueiri (who had to seek funding and support from around the globe), but also the first respectable and universal Lebanese film to invade the world cinematic circuit. Third, the movie's inaccuracies are irrelevant especially to a worldwide audience that seeks entertainment and dramatic content; and this movie achieves both with adeptness. If you are a history buff and/or have zero tolerance for fiction and poetry (in pictures, words, and music) then this movie is not for you.
I wondered after the screening what it was that moved me to tears in West Beirut, and I could not remember one single moment. I later realized that this movie did for me (a Lebanese that grew up in the west part of Beirut during the war) what no other movie has done before it: tell OUR story. I felt like a released prisoner, like a person who regained the ability to speak after years of silence, like....you get the idea. The sad thing is that very few in the Western hemisphere either really cared or understood the Lebanese people or their war experience, but this movie opens a big door and sheds a great light into one of the many dark corners of this Middle Eastern region.
For the "universal" emigrant (whether Lebanese or Bosnian or Kosovar)this movie is a must see; it offer a lifeline to those with a past that is both lamented and cherished. As to the rest of you out there, this movie is not only highly entertaining, but also a refreshing and necessary look at a people and area of the world that have been unfortunately misunderstood and maligned for years. So kill your TV for one night and activate your energy to go see this movie, you will not regret it.
Ziad and West Beirut deserve big applause and respect for what they have achieved. They have broken barriers (how many Lebanese movies have you seen lately?), taboos ("In the West we are called camel jockeys"), and Western perceptions of the Lebanese in general. I frankly can't wait to see the fruits of Ziad's next film. Hurry man, We need the fix!