Oualid Mouaness’s 1982 is a story about fear and courage, love and war, innocence and maturity. The film is Lebanon’s official submission for Best International Film consideration.
For fifth grade student Wissam (Mohamad Dalli) the end of year exams aren’t a problem; he’s a top student. What he is worried about is if he will be able to tell classmate Joanna that he loves her. He doesn’t understand the import of what is going on in the world—that Israel has invaded his country.
His teacher, Yasmine (Nadine Labaki) is fully aware of the dangerous times. Her brother is going south to fight with the Christian militia. She has an ailing father. She is in the middle of the political conflict that is represented by her brother on one side and her fellow teacher and boyfriend on the other. As the school day goes on, the contrails and sound of planes are a constant reminder of what’s happening. In time the sound of explosions rumble in the distance, then nearer. Plumes of smoke rise out of Beirut where the students live. Dogfights happen in the sky above.
The story moves back and forth between Wassim’s attempts to get the courage to talk to Joanna and the adults in the story trying to deal with their own worries and at the same time keep calm in the classrooms. It makes for a useful contrast between the innocence of childhood and the dangers and troubles of the adult world. But in time, the film wants us to understand that relationships—and love—are a key to being resilient in the times of trouble.
The childhood storyline is really the more compelling one. As he talks with his friend about his desire to make himself known to Joanna, and Joanna talks to her friend about who could have left the anonymous note in her locker, the sense of the power of childhood love is very clear. It is at once both scary and something we crave. It is a reminder that even in the midst of terrible and fearful events love has the power to transform us. It has the power to save us. For Wassim, we see that power come forth in the end with a bit of magical realism to save not just his love for Joanna, but his city.
The film triggers in me a touch of a contrast between scriptures. The Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, and I reasoned as a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” That thought fits well with the adults in this story as they must deal with the realities of the war drawing close. But there is also the story, “[Jesus] called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 1982 captures both of those perspectives. And it calls us live in the light of both.
1982 is available on VOD and via virtual cinema through local arthouses.
Photos courtesy of Utopia.