Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Lebanon/Belgium/Cyprus/France/USA, 2017. Rouge International, Tessalit Productions, Ezekiel Films, Scope Pictures, Douri Films, Cohen Media Group, Canal+, Cine+, L’Aide aux Cinemas du Monde, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et du Developpement International. Screenplay by Ziad Doueiri, Joelle Touma. Cinematography by Tommaso Fiorilli. Produced by Rachid Bouchareb, Jean Brehat, Julie Gayet, Antoun Sehnaoui, Nadia Turincev. Music by Eric Neveux. Production Design by Hussein Baydoun. Costume Design by Lara Mae Khamis. Film Editing by Dominique Marcombe. Academy Awards 2017. Toronto International Film Festival 2017.
Construction workers bringing apartment buildings in a Beirut neighbourhood up to code have their work interrupted when Tony, a car mechanic whose business is just below his apartment, refuses to allow the technicians to fix a drainage pipe on his balcony. Things heat up when Tony actually destroys the piping that the workers try to install, prompting the foreman Yasser to call him a nasty name for which Tony demands an apology; the attempt to resolve this breach of civility results in an even more violent incident that progresses to a court case that turns out to be just the beginning of a bonfire controversy that lights up the entire country. Tony is a member of a right-wing Christian party that promotes hatred of Lebanon’s Palestinian citizens, and Yasser is a member of the targeted population, and as the first trial moves on to an appeal and further secrets of the past are revealed, the situation becomes more complicated as ideas of who started what become a misery contest that seeks to measure suffering and justify violence and resentment. Ziad Doueiri’s compelling and entertaining political drama seeks to question the possibility of peace when people are so committed to their righteous, vindictive anger, creating characters who inhabit their situations with vibrancy and intelligence. Doueiri is not above shameless manipulation, there are a few twists to the plot that belong in a soap opera (I don’t want to give it away, but the Class Action moment reeks of contrivance despite the quality of the cast), but while this keeps the film from being unforgettable, it’s still a satisfying film that stays on track through to its satisfying if overdetermined conclusion.