Set during a single school day at an idyllic Christian school outside Beruit, 1982 follows an average day as the Lebanese Civil War rages on, much to the children’s disinterest. Eleven-year-old Wissam (Mohamad Dalli) writes a secret note to his crush Joanna (Gia Madi) while teacher Yesmine (a show-stealing Nadine Labaki) struggles knowing her family is on the way to the front lines, but tries to hold it together for the children’s sake. When the Israeli army invades the country in the mid-afternoon, the school evacuates, leaving Wissam one last chance to tell Joanna how he feels lest he never see her again.
Elementary school scenes might sound jarring when set against fighter jets darting through the sky, but writer/director Oualid Mouaness balances the innocuous nature of playground politics with the omnipresent threat of death. 1982 subscribes to the old Hitchcock ethos about a bomb under a table being the key to tension. Its eerie wide shots play on the audience’s expectations that bombs are going to blow any second, but the students are experiencing love for the first time; nearby battleships can’t match the energy.
Despite an underdeveloped animated element, 1982 feels like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant—where the world outside the safety of school walls looms so large and ominous. Its sweet nature is the point: Coming of age isn’t a process that can be disrupted, and in many ways how a child comes of age is an example of the country itself. Mouaness offers Western viewers a glimpse at a country long-ignored in contemporary culture. 1982 is a wonderful introduction to Lebanon’s rich film industry.
+Tense; well directed
-Themes lack development
Directed by Mouaness
With Dalli, Labaki and Madi
Jean Cocteau Cinema, NR, 100 min