Movie Reviews: West Beirut (1998)

Title: West Beirut
Release Date: September 1, 1998
Director: Ziad Doueiri
Production Company:  3B Productions | ACCI | Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC) | Ciné Libre | Douri Films | Exposed Film Productions AS  L’Agence de la Francophonie (ACCT) | La Sept-Arte | MEDIA Programme of the European Union | Ministère de la Culture de la Republique Française | Ministère des Affaires Étrangères | Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK) | Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF)


Set in 1975, West Beirut depicts the early days of the Lebanese Civil War through the perspective of a mischievous teenager, Tarek (Rami Doueiri).  At first the war is an opportunity for fun and adventure much like the children in Hope and Glory.  Tarek and his best friend Omar (Mohamad Chamas) are delighted when their French-operated school is closed and they spend the day making Super 8 movies.  The city is divided into the Christian East Beirut and the Muslim West Beirut, although the city is not so easily divided as Tarek befriends May (Rola Al-Amin), a Christian orphan living in his family’s apartment building in West Beirut.

A major part of the movie involves Tarek accidentally finding his way into an infamous brothel and then trying to return there with Omar and May.  I feel that the movie spins its wheels here a bit and would’ve been more interested in seeing more of Tarek’s relationships with his friends developed more.  But overall this is a sweet and comic movie about how young people deal with troubled times and ultimately with heartbreaking tragedy.

Rating: ****

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