Sky of Lebanon: The devastating impact of civil war on a family

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Directed by Chloe Mazlo; written by Mazlo and Yacine Badday

Sky of Lebanon (Under Alice’s Sky), by writer-director Chloé Mazlo, is a semi-autobiographical blend of the intimate and the political centered on the impact of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) on a family. It is a poetic, imaginative and colorful work that uses stop-motion animation and surreal drama to highlight the irrationality of war and internal and ethnic conflict. The film opens in New York on July 22 and in other locations in the following weeks.

In the 1950s, a young Swiss woman disconnects from her close-knit family – dramatized in claymation – to settle in Beirut. Once in Lebanon, Alice (Alba Rohrwacher), turned human, falls in love with Joseph (Wajdi Mouawad—author of the play Firessource of the eponymous film by Denis Villeneuve in 2010), an eccentric astrophysicist who dreams of sending his fellow citizens into space.

Sky of Lebanon

Their storybook existence was devastated in the late 1970s by the country’s brutal civil war, which left an estimated 120,000 dead, tens of thousands internally displaced and nearly a million people driven from the country.

At one point, Alice prays for peace and lists Lebanon’s many religious and ethnic groups: Protestants, Druze, Shiites, Sunnis, Alawites, Ismailis, Melkites, Roman Catholics, Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Apostolics, Assyrians, Syrian Orthodox, Orthodox. , Copts, Arameans, Chaldeans, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists!

Mazlo told an interviewer earlier this year that she wanted to talk about the Lebanese civil war “as my family told me. The character of Alice is very inspired by my grandmother. She is Swiss, but she moved to Lebanon around 1955. This rather radiant and insightful character is the gateway to the story. She felt reborn when she arrived in Lebanon. Her experience raised more questions than if she had been Lebanese. It is difficult to convey one’s attachment to a country because it is not rational. We find it difficult to understand why we fall in love with a country that is not ours.

The writer-director further explained that she first wanted to make “a serious and naturalistic film. After a while, I realized that was not how I spoke or how I made movies. At the same time, she explained, “I needed the emotional foundation of the story to be real. When my co-writer, Yacine Badday, and I had doubts about the reactions of the characters, I went to see my grandmother to ask her about their experience.

Sky of Lebanon (2020)

Mazlo observed that she decided to use animation “only when absolutely necessary. This technique should not be used systematically: every time she thinks or dreams… the animation really had to be part of the story. I felt like I was getting closer to life that way, rather than doing a standard documentary.

Sky of Lebanon is a visually sumptuous and appealing piece. Its innovative narrative style and quirky, human characters are delightful. This is just the latest in a series of sensitive and compassionate films to come out of Lebanon in recent years, including 1982, Costa Brava Lebanon, Capernaum and others.

Nonetheless, it should be emphasized that calls for tolerance and social solidarity alone cannot begin to make sense of the Lebanese civil war (or any other traumatic social event, for that matter). The conflict, ultimately, had social and economic roots and has a social and economic solution.

Moreover, US imperialism has a long and bloody record in Lebanon and bears major responsibility for both the oppression of the Lebanese and Palestinian masses and the large number of people killed or maimed during the 15-year civil war in Lebanon. country.

The current situation in Lebanon is unstable in the extreme. In January, massive protests erupted in Beirut, the northern port city of Tripoli (Lebanon’s poorest city) and the eastern province of Baalbeck, denouncing the collapse of the value of the lira, the national currency pegged to the US dollar.

At the time, the WSWS explained that “increasingly frequent and long power cuts have forced people to turn to private providers, often paying more than the cost of their rent”. Fuel prices soared as the Central Bank cut subsidies in a bid to conserve Lebanon’s dwindling foreign currency reserves. It costs more to fill a car’s gas tank than the monthly minimum wage, which is currently only worth $20.

The WSWS noted in April that the Lebanese currency had fallen 200% against the US dollar last year, “resulting in a spike in inflation, estimated at 145% last year, which places it third after Venezuela and Sudan. … Access to the most basic goods, including food, water, health care, hospitals accepting payment only in US dollars, and education is in jeopardy. Widespread blackouts are the rule due to fuel shortages, endemic corruption and poor power management.

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