West Beyrouth

Wes BeyrouthtLast night we watched the highly-acclaimed Lebanese movie West Beyrouth on DVD. It was quite a treat. The first time I saw this film was when it came out in the late 1990’s. Watching it for the second time was a refreshing reminder, as I totally forgot how wonderful this movie is. It is the story of Beirut during the civil war as seen through the eyes of two teenagers living in the west side of the city. The boys, who are trying desperately to cross to the other side of Beirut to get some films developed, experience firsthand the cruelty of a war that shattered their country for years.

The movie was a delight. The camera work was exceptional as was the acting and the witty, humorous story line. The DVD, which we got as a gift from Amal, had subtitles in English, enabling my dear husband to follow the storyline and enjoy it as much as I did.

While on my way to work this morning I kept thinking to myself about the movie scene in my country: Will Jordan ever be able to produce such a well-made film eventually gaining world-wide acclaim? Will this happen in my lifetime? I know there are many initiatives currently on-going in Jordan to improve the movie scene but I wonder: Will I live to see the day of such a fine Jordanian production? We just have to stay hopeful, I guess.

Okay, before I go and embrace the day (likely to prove a very long one) I will leave you with some newswire highlights.

11 Comments

  1. iyas January 30, 2005 at 7:46 am

    I heard of the movie a long time ago. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to see it back in Jordan and I can’t seem to be able to find here either. The other movie that I think may be worth watching is “West Bank-Brooklyn”.
    There were a very limited trials to produce movies in Jordan starting in the late 1960s. Almost all of these failed because of funding/revenue issues. One of the last (probably the last) attempt to produce a long movie in Jordan was by Najdat Anzour-a movie called “Hikayah Sharqiyah” (Oriental Tale). The movie itself is not a bad one at all, but it drove his director out of the country to Syria where he became famous for directing such series as “Nihayat Rajol Shuja'” (The End of a Great Man). On the other hand, one has to look a the general state of production in Jordan: Name a single successful Jordanian singer! Even what’s her face Karazon has disappeared. The biggest TV studio in the country went bankrupt a few years ago and was sold to ART. At one point in time, Jordanian TV series (whether meaningful or plain 3awwad-ba3-il-arth stupid) were selling. Heck, we had more than 7 or so seasons of Abu Awwad!
    It does not take much to produce a movie nowadays. Just get a freaking digital camera and a bootlegged copy of Final Cut.

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  2. Ameen Malhas January 30, 2005 at 1:14 pm

    West Beirut is amazing. I love the Omar character who upon walking into the brothel casually sends a “3al 3afieh Shabab.”
    I read an analysis somewhere and it said that one of the symbols of the movie is that it spans 4 years and yet the kids don’t grow up, another side effect of war.
    As for our fledgling film industry, I think we have just begun moving in the right direction, and as time progresses I believe we will succeed.
    Now on a more scathing note, Al Urdun Awalan has been my motto for the past few years, to the dismay of my Nasserist friends. But alas, what I hear from Amman is disturbing. Wasta and Corruption are more rampant than ever (causing law enforcement to be cautious because they don’t know who’s son they might be stopping). Taxes are just going higher, and the government is more bloated than ever (employing ~45% of the workforce). The IT sector is still highly constrained and the TRC liberalization still runs into some problems. Copyright and IP are still in their infancy.
    Here’s a message to the government: Billboards alone don’t change people’s minds, and headlines of ‘plans’ to improve certain aspects won’t do either. Here’s my suggestion: pick a project, whatever it may be, any department with lots of red tape and fix it, then announce the completion of a project which is so much more satisfying than your intent to do so.
    Now I only mention this because young kids (0-25) make up the highest proportion of our population and if you can give them a sense of empowerment (as masters of their own destiny), I believe not only will we have great films and music, but we will have athletes, artists, scientists, etc…
    I believe in the power of human potential but only when it is allowed to flourish in the right framework. Long way to go…
    Sorry I blabbered.

    Reply
  3. natasha January 30, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    Ameen,
    I love your “blabbering” they are always thought provoking:-)
    Since you like the character Omar that much, here is some interesting piece of information about him from IMDB:
    “Mohammad Chamas’ who played Omar in the movie was discovered by accident. At one time while the crew was preparing the set and not having found an actor to play Omar, Mohammed was passing by and he had a fight with one of the crew members. The director noticed him and immediately asked him to play the character. After having lived in an orphanage most of his life, becoming a lead in a motion picture was an important change of pace.”

    Reply
  4. linda January 30, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    Can anyone tell me how i can get this movie in L.A. is it possible? I dont want to search for it if i cant get it.

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  5. Hubby January 30, 2005 at 11:09 pm

    Try Amazon if you want to own and I’d say it’s worth owning. They’ve only got VHS in the US but hey, they’ve got it at least.

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  6. linda January 31, 2005 at 1:08 am

    Thanks Jeff!

    Reply
  7. Chan'ad February 1, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    Great film! I saw it at a film festival a few years back and bought myself a copy when it came out on DVD. It really evokes melancholic feelings even though I’ve never been to Beirut.
    Has anyone seen Ziad Doueri’s second project “Lila dit ca” ? I wonder if its as good as West Beirut. But definitely, the Arab world needs more quality films like this. Right now the only part of the Arab world that is consistently producing good films is the Maghreb region which has to some extent inherited from the French tradition of filmmaking. I’d like to see this spread Eastwards towards our parts.

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  8. natasha February 2, 2005 at 9:18 am

    I also think the Egyptian movie scene is waking up finally after being dormant for a long time. New faces and new directors are on the right track to bring back the golden days of the Egyptain cinema.

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  9. Ameen Malhas February 6, 2005 at 3:41 am

    Linda, I found it at the local independent movie store Casa Video for rental. I’m sure there’s a bunch of similar ones in LA.
    It also airs occasionally on the Sundance Channel. (I know this thanks to my TiVo).

    Reply
  10. newswire February 14, 2005 at 2:44 am

    Director Ziad Doueri’s growing pains

    By Jim Quilty BEIRUT: Reputations made with a first film, they say, can be lost with a second. The adage comes to mind when watching Ziad Doueri’s latest. “Lila dit a” (“Lila Says”) is a less-satisfying, less-successful work than “West Beyrouth,” but…

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  11. Debbie April 14, 2008 at 2:16 am

    I just recently saw West Beyrouth 2 days ago..very powerful movie.. it made me weep..i am from united states, but i have deep admiration for lebanon prior to ever hearing of or watching this film..this film moved me more then a few times..the last scene in the movie just tore me up..such simple needs turn out to be life threatening in such terrible times….i am still floored at the reaction and emotions i felt with this film..
    April 13, 2008

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