Friday, 18 April 2008

Under The Bombs a film by Philippe Aractingi

Under The Bombs a film by Philippe Aractingi

Under The Bombs a film by by Philippe Aractingi


It's a wry, tragic road movie, shot in the war zone while the smell of cordite hung in the air and smoke still rose from shattered buildings. Revealing, occasionally darkly comic, Under the Bombs is raw, painfully vivid, full of sharp detail and extremely moving.


...a heartfelt road movie, with lacerating images of Israel's recent war in Lebanon. Paradoxically, by appearing in a fiction feature, these images achieve a reality that is never fully conveyed in television news reporting. With remarkable resourcefulness, Aractingi has simply taken his actors, camera and crew into the destroyed landscape and partly improvised a heartwrenching film from what he has found there. Nada Abou Farhat plays Zeina, a haughty, wealthy and beautiful woman who arrives in Beirut from Dubai in the summer of 2006, after the Israeli Defence Force's catastrophically misjudged bombardment of southern Lebanon. Desperately, she begs for a taxi driver to take her to a village in the south, to discover what has happened there to her young son. The only person who agrees is Tony (Georges Khabbaz), who appears to be louche, unreliable, in it for the cash. But Zeina's desperate quest opens a long-buried wound in Tony: his relationship with a fugitive brother who, during the last war in 1982, joined the collaborationist South Lebanese Army. Zeina and Tony are the oddest of odd couples, and I suspect Aractingi was never entirely sure how much sexual tension there should really be between them. But these human nuances are not as important as the vision of Lebanon's extraordinary, almost surreal landscapes of destruction and hurt.


Shot without a formal script during the middle of Israel's 33-day bombardment and invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the poignant Under the Bombs is a heartfelt road movie from Lebanese writer-director Philippe Aractingi. It tracks a wealthy Shiite woman Zeina (Nada Abou Farhat) and a Christian taxi driver Tony (Georges Khabbaz), who are travelling from Beirut to the devastated south of the country in search of Zeina's young son Karim and her sister.

Zeina and Tony make for an unlikely pairing, given their differences in class, religion and gender, and she initially sits in the back seat of his Mercedes and brushes aside his attempts at friendly conversation. When they reach the village of Kherbet Selem and discover that Zeina's family home is in ruins however, Tony vows to continue the search for Karim with his passenger, and she in turn reveals more about her own life.

About Farhat and Khabbaz are the only professional actors in Under the Bombs: all the supporting characters, whether they are refugees, soldiers, nuns, foreign journalists, Hezbollah supporters or aid workers, play themselves. Together with the news footage that's incorporated into the story, the casting gives the film a powerful authenticity. Aractingi isn't interested in political sermonising, but in showing the impact of this war on Lebanon's infrastructure and its civilian population. The film's credits are dedicated to "the suffering of the innocent", and the ending to Zeina's quest is appropriately wrenching.