"Under the Bombs": A Human Scream Against Atrocities By Dejan Petrovic

in 10th Bratislava International Film Festival

by Dejan Petrovic

One of the most notable movies shown at the 10th Bratislava International Film Festival was Under the Bombs (Sous les bombes) by Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi. In his rendition of the aftermath of the last Lebanon-Israel bloody war during the summer of 2006, the director skillfully combines fiction and documentary elements, occasionally incorporating TV news footage. The shooting of the film began just ten days after the arrival of international peacekeepers and in spite of its immediacy in the representation of the evolving events it appears to be a really well thought through strong piece of great achievement. Structured as a road-movie, it is however quite contrary to the aimlessly wanderings and contemplations of the characters populating Wim Wender’s road movies.

Just a few days after the bombings have stopped, Zeina, a smart, well educated, very attractive, though somewhat blasé young woman, suddenly finds herself on an unexpected and hazardous taxi trip from Beirut to the still dangerous southern regions of the destroyed country, in search of her six-year old son Karim and her sister in the small village of Kherbet Selem.

The differences between Zeina and the taxi-driver — the only one brave enough to take her on this trip — are more than obvious: Zeina comes from an upper class Shiite Muslim family. Tony, the driver, is a Christian who knows the road well and takes the job for the additional but as time goes by, he becomes more and more emotionally involved with this strange woman and begins to reveal some of his own deeply guarded — even from himself – anguish and family secrets.

The discrepancy between the western lifestyle Zeina has enjoyed in Dubai — to a great degree secular and cosmopolite, and the terrible consequences of war suffered by the local population — poor, uneducated, often radically extremist delineates the insurmountable divide within the nation to which she formally belongs. She admits she actually never thought about war, hatred, religious intolerance and politics before real life — in a very cruel and brutal manner — forces her to face long-standing animosities and their sudden impact on her well-guarded private life. On the way, we are witnessing some really disturbing scenes of destroyed homes, bridges, highways, buildings; bodies of killed people, and hear desperate cries, curses and pledges for revenge.

The actors playing the main parts: Nada Abou Farhat (Zeina) and Georges Khabbaz (Tony) deserve special attention. Indeed, Nada Abou Farhat captured the Best Actress Award for her extremely persuasive transformation from a spoiled upper class woman to a heart-broken mother and sister, expressing in-between all the minute psychological changes, brought about by her initiating experience along the road to hell.

Under the Bombs is a strong anti-war message from the Lebanon region, alerting the world to the real tragedy of this unfortunate people. It is also an oblique critique of the hypocritical western “peace keeping” mission as well as of the sensationalist global mass-media.