Under the Bombs is half a great film. Seeking to walk the line between fiction and documentary, filmmaker Philippe Aractingi took a cast and crew to south Lebanon during the height of the Israeli-Hezbollah war of summer 2006, framing the narrative of a young woman trying to locate her missing six-year-old son around chaos in the region. It is with the help of Tony (Georges Bajem), a Christian taxi driver, that Zeina (Nada Abou Farhat), an attractive, thirtysomething Shiite woman, travels into this hell zone, but their drama is a forced and largely transparent expression of culture clash. He stares at her boobs through his rearview mirror, eventually breaks through her shell, and by the time they are close to finding her son, they’re making sexy-time. Aractingi’s footage of the bombing—the devastation it wreaked on landscape and the hearts and minds of the people in the region—is unbelievable, prize-worthy even, except the way people still stinging from tragedy are lured into worrying about a woman’s made-up drama is close to insulting. As documentary, the film reveres the horrors of the Israeli bombing, but as fiction, it actually works to trivialize it: For sure, it’s a fine line that Aractingi tries to walk, but until he learns to take a page from Kiarostami’s humanist playbook, he should stick to nonfiction.
Under the Bombs @ Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.