Writer-director Ziad Doueiri’s first feature has the appealing premise of following two young boys as they try to forge a normal life in the dangerous environment of war-torn Beirut. Told largely in the loose style of strung-together anecdotes, the story has an improvisational feel which, while initially engaging, eventually becomes a bit too meandering.

The boys are Tarek (Rami Doueiri) and Omar (Mohamad Chamas) and the year is 1975, when the conflicts between the Muslims and the Christians literally divided the city. One of the conceits of the film – assuming that it’s intentional – is that the reasons behind the partitioning of Beirut into religious sectors are never made clear, apparently a reflection of the fact that our two protagonists really don’t care.

What they care about mainly is that the conflict has indefinitely closed their school and that they’re free to roam the streets making Super 8 films and interacting with their colorful neighbors (the humor in the film is distressingly broad). The war only really begins to hit home when the two realize that the sole place where they can get their film developed is in the Christian sector.

The film takes a more serious turn toward the end, but not very effectively. It’s all well-done but disappointing, as what begins as a sort of Middle Eastern homage to the French New Wave devolves into the familiar deep sighing of traditional humanist cinema.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.