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1982 (A Movie Review)

1982 (2019)

Starring Nadine Labaki, Mohamad Dalli, Rodrigue Sleiman, Aliya Khalidi, Ghassan Maalouf, Gia Madi, Lelya Harkous, Said Serhan, Zeina Saab de Melero, Joseph Azoury, Fidel Badran, Tia El Bezreh, Rodrigue Sleiman, Alistair Brett, Karim Tohme, Cynthia Kassis, Laetitia Gerbaka, Christine Youakim, Simon Jamous, Karl Smayra, Youmna Bou Hanna and Meghan Naasan.

Screenplay by Oualid Mouaness.

Directed by Oualid Mouaness.

Distributed by Tricycle Logic. 100 minutes. Not Rated.

Looking at life-changing events – like for example, war – through the eyes of children can often be fascinating. 1982 is about a day in the life of a small school in Lebanon during the titular year, when suddenly all of the normal day-to-day rhythms of school life – little boys crushing on little girls, dealing with bullies, the cliques of lunch period, teachers trying to keep order – are thrown into chaos when the country is invaded.

While it is noted that both the Israelis and Syrians (two very different enemies for very different reasons) are behind the invasion, in general 1982 does not get overly caught up in the politics behind the invasion. In fact, to the kids (and to a slightly lesser extent to the teachers) why the invasion is happening is beside the point. The point is that it is interrupting their days, interrupting their learning, their social interactions, even their schoolyard gossip.

In fact, exactly 40 years on (yesterday was the anniversary of the invasion), many people don’t know the specifics of the war. I certainly don’t.

According to Wikipedia, “The 1982 Lebanon War, dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee by the Israeli government, later known in Israel as the Lebanon War or the First Lebanon War, and known in Lebanon as 'the invasion' began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded southern Lebanon, after repeated attacks and counter-attacks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in southern Lebanon and the IDF that had caused civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The military operation was launched after gunmen from Abu Nidal's organization attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin blamed Abu Nidal's enemy, the PLO, for the incident, and used the incident as a casus belli for the invasion.”

None of which really matters to the characters of 1982.

None of these children, and few of these teachers, really know the specifics of why it was happening, they just knew that it was happening to them. And, frankly, they had other things to deal with.

Take Wissam (Mohamad Dalli), an 11-year-old boy. The only geopolitical concerns that he has is the fact that the girl he has a huge crush on, Joanna (Gia Madi), lives in the opposite side of Beirut, a fact which makes it difficult – if not impossible – for him to expect to win her over. Still he’s obsessed with the idea of trying.

On the teacher’s side of this intriguing ensemble piece, we follow a few of the educators as they negotiate the day, going from normal classroom antics to a desperate attempt to get the children home safe when fate intervenes.

The teacher who is shown most is Yasmine (played by Lebanese superstar Nadine Labaki), a sweet woman who is torn between her students and problems with her family (stemming from her brother joining the resistance) and her liberal teacher boyfriend. However, being an educator and protector for her students is always first on her mind.

1982 is the film debut of writer/director Oualid Mouaness, who is best known for making videos for music stars like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, David Bowie and Annie Lennox. His background in video helps in this narrative film, he has a smart eye for imagery and nuance. He is telling a small story about a very large event. Looking at war through this prism makes it more human and tragic than a more traditional battlefield film. You don’t always have to see the carnage to recognize the loss.

In a world where all these years later, the people of Ukraine (and many others around the globe) are dealing with situations similar to the characters here, no matter what your political leanings may be, 1982 is a smart and subtle look at the costs of war to everyday people.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: June 7, 2022.

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