Sous les bombes (Under the Bombs) (2007)
Director: Philippe Aractingi.
Starring: Nada Abou Farhat (Zeina), Georges Khabbaz (Tony), Rawia Elchab (Hotel Receptionist), Bshara Atallah (Journalist).
following the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, a Lebanese woman goes in search of her son and sister
"August 2006. For 33 days Lebanon has suffered heavy Israeli airstrikes. Buildings are being demolished. Kids and teachers are running for their lives. The children are put on the back of trucks to take them out of the city. On the 34th day, a ceasefire was declared, controlled by the UN. Lebanon was in ruins. There were 1189 dead and almost a million refugees."
A Lebanese woman named Zeina gets off a ship. Most people are trying to get out of Lebanon, but Zeina is coming in. There are lots of taxi drivers wanting to take her to Damascus, but she wants to go south to where so much bombing took place. One of the drivers tells her that no one will take her there. "Too dangerous." Finally, a taxi cab driver named Tony says he will take her. She demands to know for how much. He says $300 dollars. Zeina is shocked at the price. Tony says: "Lady. I' not risking my life for nothing." He tells her to find someone else and calls out for another person. Zeina now says she will go with Tony. Half will be paid now and the other half when they reach her destination. It's a rough start for both of them.
Zeina finally says that she is looking for her son. Her sister told her she and her son would be in Saida or Tyre. Tony says he's sure they will find her sister and son. They start crossing a bridge, but the other side of it has been bombed out. They have to take another road.
Tony drops Zeina at a school where she asks about her sister and son. Tony says he will go on a short errand. Zeina walks through the school rooms looking for her loved ones. Meanwhile, Tony goes down to the docks where supplies for the refugees are coming in. He wants to try and get some medicine from one of the truckers whose truck is being filled with supplies. The problem is that the trucker is honest and won't give him any medicine.
Zeina now waits for Tony by the school. After a long wait, she decides to walk over to the Court of Justice. She tells them her name is Zeina Noureddine and she is looking for a Maha Noureddine and a boy named Karim. A woman says she saw a red-headed woman with a small boy. They were downstairs. It turns out to be a false alarm. There are many women saying how they lost their children under the bombs. One mother says: "That's life. That's what Israel wants. They were aiming at people -- women, children, anywhere with civilians."
Zeina starts walking again. Tony pulls up to her in his taxi. Zeina is mad at him, but tells him to take her to a convent where there are refugees. It's in Marjeyoun, a town and administrative district, Marjeyoun District, in the Nabatieh Governorate in Southern Lebanon, the district bordering on northern Israel.. They come to cross over another bridge, but it too is bombed out. They start driving along the coast. Tony starts complaining that they made a deal to go to Saida and Tyre, but not to other places, like Marjeyoun. He says he may have to charge her another $50 dollars for driving her to extra places. Zeina is not too happy about this.
They reach the convent. A nun tells her that her relatives were here, but they left soon after the ceasefire to go home.
Zeina now decides to drive to her old home. Her hometown is a real mess. She finds her home devastated. She starts to cry and women come over to her to ask who is she looking for? One woman tells Zeina that her sister Maha is dead. A young boy tells her that French journalists took her son Karim with them. He adds that the journalists took him to Tyre.
Zeina is being driven away from her hometown. Now she says she wants to go back to find out where her sister is buried. Tony turns the car around and goes back. He asks the neighbors where is the sister Maha buried? The helpful woman says they are in a communal grave in Tyre. An ambulance took her body there. Now Tony talks to the boy Ali and gets a detailed description and tour of what happened during the bombings.
Tony takes Zeina to a hotel. They have separate rooms. Tony starts having a little sexual encounter (some nudity) with the hotel clerk woman, but he has to cut it short because Zeina is screaming so much in her room. He goes to Zeina and tries to console her. Zeina had a nightmare that Karim was dead. She asks Tony if he thinks she is chasing a shadow?
They register with the army which is still combing areas for bodies. Afterwards, Zeina goes into a clothing store and comes out looking much more traditional in her dress -- covered-up and with a scarf over her head. And now she sits in the front passenger seat with Tony.
They go looking for the communal grave where Zeina's sister might be buried. She asks a doctor who has the list of the dead about her sister. He says they sent her sister's casket to Kherbet Selm, to Canaa.
A French reporter says: "Canaa can bury its dead. It took 19 days for the people of the small Lebanese town to be able to organize the funeral of their victims. The 29 civilians, mainly women and children, killed during the Israeli air strike on July 30 were buried today during funerals where the flags of Lebanon and of the Hezbollah were flying." The people shout out insults to Israel and the United States. Zeina now gives up on trying to find her sister's casket. Now she wants to go find Karim.
On the drive, Zeina says Lebanon has known only war for such a long time: 1975, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1996 and now 2006. An old man flags the taxi cab down, and Tony gives the man a ride home. They drop the old man off at his home and he gives them directions to a place to get gas. He tells Tony to tell the people there that Abou Salem sent them.
They reach the station but it looks ruined and closed. Tony shouts out for benzene. Finally, a woman appears. She has benzene, but Tony will have to siphon it off from a wrecked car. He gets his fuel. They go back to the hotel where they stayed the previous night.
The next day the French UN troops arrive by helicopter. Zeina is there to look for French journalists. She spends a lot of time talking to various journalists. She doesn't get much help.
Zeina tells Tony that her husband, the architect, is now in Jordan and can't get to Lebanon. Tony tells her that his dream of going to Germany will never be fulfilled. Nor will the dream come true for his brother. In the 1982 Israeli invasion his brother stuck his neck out politically. The Israelis were welcomed as liberators. His brother believed it and joined the SLA, the "allies" of the Israelis. Now his brother lives in Israel.
Zeina gets a call from the hospital in Tyre and Tony takes her there. A doctor says that all the patients in Tyre were transferred to Beirut. Then she learns that her boy is in a monastery. Tony says that the convent it actually past Jezzine. So it's better that they drive through the mountains.
Zeina calls the convent and speaks with Karim, but the boy just remains silent, not talking to anyone. Tony say let's get her boy, before it gets dark in the mountains. They start again for the convent, but another bridge has been destroyed by the Israelis. He says they will back track to a friend's house where they will know which bridges are out and which are still whole. So, they turn their car around. At night, they reach the friend's house. His friends warn him that the roads are dangerous, especially at night. Zeina wants to go on, but Tony talks her into staying at the place until daylight tomorrow. Zeina resigns herself. In the middle of the night, Tony decides to head out for the convent in the dark. He gets Zeina and off they go, after saying their goodbyes.
They reach a highway and Tony turns off his lights to head down in the dark. He winds up going off the road and stranding his taxi cab. So now the two have to walk in the dark to the convent.
They are still walking when it becomes daylight. Zeina tells Tony that her husband has sworn that he has left his mistress.
The couple make it to the convent.
They go into see Karim, but it's not Karim. Zeina wants to know where
Karim is. The boy says: "He stayed under the bombs." The boy
holds Zeina's head in between his two hands.
Good movie from the Lebanese viewpoint. Southern Lebanon really got clobbered in retaliation for the Hezbollah rockets fired from southern Lebanon into Israel. A woman with money comes looking for her son and her sister in southern Lebanon We see the extensive damage to the buildings and the hurt for the Lebanese people who lost relatives in the bombings. The saying is that war is hell. In one way, the film is a road trip of different destroyed parts of Lebanon. The woman and the cab driver go through different adventures and gradually learn to respect each other as they go through emotional highs and lows depending on what they find. Pretty Nada Abou Farhat (as Zeina) and Georges Khabbaz (as Tony) were both very good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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