Written and directed by Oualid Mouaness, during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon at a private school on the outskirts of Beirut, 11-year-old Wissam tries to tell a classmate about his crush on her, while his teachers on different sides of the political divide, try to mask their fears. Starring: Mohamad Dalli, Fidel Badran, Gia Madi, Ghassan Maalouf, Lelya Harkous, Nadine Labaki, Said Serhan and Aliya Khalidi.
War is a relentlessly tricky subject to approach, especially one involving a country which remains on the brink of further conflict but Oualid Mouaness presents the events of 1982 through the eyes of a child. Setting this story from the perspective of Wissam (Mohamad Dalli) means that Mouaness can forgo the more political questions and cut straight to the impact on innocent civilians. It delves into how conflict is viewed by children, how it impacts their daily life and what their awareness of it is. It creates an interesting blend, there are moments where they’re blissfully unaware and others when their instincts tell them something is wrong. The result is that it creates an initial sweetness and youthfulness but grows as it moves forward, moving the war from a backdrop to an inescapable aspect.
The strength of Oualid Mouaness’s direction deepens the atmosphere which goes along with that story. There’s a quickly curious and almost mysterious air as the film opens, established by the rich, thoughtful quality of the direction and cinematography (by Brian Rigney Hubbard). Using a simple school setting doesn’t always provide for the most luxurious or complex of aesthetics but it’s that modest nature which helps the emotions and sincerity of 1982 land so effectively. Mouaness captures a strong authenticity and an earnest feel, the only exception to that being the ending which takes a fairly large swing. The style is entirely different to everything established so far and while it does work to show things the perspective of Wissam’s imagination, as an interpretation of events, it feels fairly weak in comparison with the rest of the film. It’s a shame to end things on such a mismatched note but doesn’t undermine the strong work done otherwise.
One of the strongest elements is the debut performance from Mohamad Dalli, it’s an impressive portrayal for such a young actor. He’s helplessly romantic in a society that’s very wary of young boys, he’s sweet and generous, as well as being a great example of how political divides don’t permeate the friendships of children, and shouldn’t. He’s paired well with Ghassan Maalouf, the two have a very natural chemistry and a charming friendship. Similarly with Gia Madi, she doesn’t get to be overly involved in the story but it’s yet another sincere performance, which is never a given with any film populated by child actors. The cast is then rounded out well with Nadine Labaki, she adds a sense of urgency and fear, providing more explanation to the conflict and further layers to the emotions of the film.
1982 sweetly and sincerely explores conflict through the eyes of children. It skilfully captures their youthfulness while still conveying the impending dangers of war. Mohamad Dalli leads with an impressive debut performance which is filled with kindness, while being supported by a great ensemble. Oualid Mouaness’s direction is strong throughout, feeding richly into the authentic feel of the film and creating a compelling atmosphere.