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Lebanon

~ Winner ~ 9 International Festivals ~

Samuel Maoz’s debut feature is a raw and horrifying memoir of war on a par with Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, in that it examines in close-up the physical and psychological torments of young men in mortal danger. The film thrusts us into the first day of the first Lebanon war, June 1982, as 19-year-old gunner Shmuel (Yoav Donat) joins his equally inexperienced crew in a tank. Once inside this cramped, stinking death-trap, the film stays there, monitoring the tense faces of the four Israelis and viewing the disasters of war exclusively through the cross hairs of Shmuel’s gunsight. Thus the surreal sight of an elderly Arab sitting at a cafe table with a companion slumped dead next to him; or of a half-naked mother shrieking hysterically amid what remains of her family. Maoz, a conscript of that war, knows of what he speaks, but even more impressive than the screenplay is his technique as a film-maker – the sound design is superb, and the complicity of viewpoint through the swivelling gunsight is a brilliant coup de cinema. It would make a fine double-bill of conflict-as-claustrophobia with Das Boot. – Anthony Quinn, The Independent Lebanon won the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival, putting it up there with the likes of The Battle of Algiers, Rashomon and, more recently, Vera Drake and Brokeback Mountain. Such an award does raise expectations; Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon is most definitely to be recommended as a distinctive, personal memoir of what it was like to be a young, fearful soldier and inhabit the hellish confines of a tank during the 1982 Lebanon War. Inside the tank, claustrophobia, conflicting instructions, confrontation and an eerie sense of isolation are the name of the game as the tank encounters gun and rocket fire, negotiates a ruined town by day and night and suffers damage of increasing severity. Comradeship barely figures as the tank’s occupants – three young lads, Shmulik (Yoav Donat), Hertzel (Oshri Cohen) and Yigal (Michael Moshonov), under the command of the not-much-older Assi (Itay Tiran) – are driven by the individualism of fear. Heroism and self-sacrifice, so often the twin clichés of war films, are irrelevant. Barely emerging from the shadows, the four men negotiate smoke, oil, water and urine – not to mention an abundance of croutons (their issued snack) sprayed over the festering walls of the tank. Lebanon treads similar territory to Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, another work from a filmmaker who fought in the Lebanon War and is only now able to distil his memories into entertainment. But Maoz prefers straight, undignified reconstruction to telling a story through the prism of memory. His aim is admirable, his project intriguing and his film a fair testament to the nightmare of war. – Dave Calhoun, Time Out London Official Trailer
Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

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Directed by: 
Samuel Maoz
Running Time: 
100
Country(ies): 
Israel, France, UK
Language: 
In Hebrew, Arabic, and French with English subtitles.
Starring: 
Michael Moshonov, Itay Tiran, Oshri Cohen, Yoav Donat
Screenplay by: 
Samuel Maoz

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