Things fall apart all the time, but knowing how that happens to objects or people makes it more disturbing. In his debut feature, Ghassan Halwani contemplates that destruction. Because it means so much in relation to the civil war that rocked Lebanon. Peaking during the 1980s, that war caused some people to go missing. People who now only live through images that also eventually disappear, accidentally or otherwise. And through both animation and archive photos, Halwani re-imagines moments of these people’s short lives.
Halwani also contemplates the state of these presumably dead people in relation to both still images and movies. These people exist and don’t, perpetually immortal but not in flesh. He introduces them to audiences only for us to forget them when the film ends. Through form, he reveals to international audiences that these people are in a legal limbo state. He shows us where the grave sites are through maps. Explaining through inter-titles that the Lebanese government thinks that these people’s existence is bad.
Halwani’s intentions are noble, introducing a different discourse concerning the missing. That said, showing these photos and drawings and maps toe the line between meditation and tedium. He doesn’t make things easy for his audience. Some of them might benefit for a little more information about the war. His methods also border on alienating obtuseness, further taking away context from the people who mostly need it. Nonetheless, this is better than historical regurgitation and he adds a physicality to his country’s historical truth.