(out of 5)
Director Mahdi Fleifel spent his childhood years in the Ain El Helweh refugee camp, a square kilometer in southern Lebanon inhabited by 70,000 Palestinians who have resided there in the decades since they were exiled. Fleifel grew up in Denmark after his parents left the camp and made new lives in Northern Europe, but he returns to the place of his childhood on a regular basis to visit his grandfather. What he particularly comes for is the World Cup, as the residents of Ain El Helweh turn the place around with their celebrations as soon as soccer matches start playing on their television screens. It isn’t all fun and games, however, as the people living in this territory are completely excluded from Lebanese society, and the sight of his family members rotting away from idleness and displacement is not lost on Fleifel, whose camera is capturing it all. Thanks to his own father’s obsession with videotaping everything, which our director seems to have inherited, the footage available here is massively abundant, depicting the daily joys of people making the most of a stifled situation, but full of massively powerful scenes of emotional explosion or rampant tragedy. It’s a film that encompasses a whole world of experience, sometimes blisteringly funny and at other times passionately moving, as edifying as it is entertaining and wholly unforgettable.
Directed by Mahdi Fleifel
Screenplay by Mahdi Fleifel
Cinematography by Mahdi Fleifel
Produced by Patrick Campbell, Mahdi Fleifel
Music by Jon Opstad
Film Editing by Michael Aaglund