TIFF: 1982

War through the eyes of children

1982 is based on the true story of  director Oualid Mouaness, during the time when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. The film received the NETPAC Award (Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema) at the Toronto International Film Festival this past weekend.

Set on the outskirts of Beirut, eleven-year-old Wissam’s main goal (played by Mohamad Dalli) is to connect with the object of his affection through a love letter. Mouaness himself remembers getting in trouble writing love letters at the age of eleven, and being told he was too young for such things. Before Wissam is able to express his feelings, airstrikes hit Beirut. Nadine Labaki (the actor/director behind Caramel and Caphernaum) plays the role of the teacher at the private school, and brings her strength as a real-life mother into her character.

Mouaness said he was most proud of the kids in the film. “I was not sure if I would be able to be their equal as a director. I got to a point where I was speaking to them like they were my peers, not like they were kids. I think that brought them to a beautiful place in their performances. The kids are real. I learned a lot about myself in the process. They have ways of thinking and saying things. The world of kids is complete in and of itself. They will talk to each other like they are equal to each other and the world is complete. Enter an adult, the dynamics change, emotionally, mechanically. This is something I had to challenge myself with. If I am speaking to them, I would sit down on the floor and that made us all feel very comfortable.”

Mouaness is able to tell his story through the eyes of children with the backdrop of a violent war. The contrast is what keeps the viewer engaged, while focusing on the disruption of education and the impact it has on children. His own story is personal, raw, and traumatic. It takes great courage for a director to share his truth, but also to heal and build resilience in the process. Perhaps children are our greatest teachers, and we learn much more from them than vice versa.  

1982 was an eight-year process, and “it happened when it was ready to happen.  When the characters write themselves, you know it’s time.” Upon receiving the NETPAC award this past weekend, Mouaness proudly said, “This film is about the resilience of humanity and the fact that love is stronger than war. It is as relevant today as it was in 1982, and I am honoured by this acclaimed recognition.” The film will have its Middle East premiere later this month at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt.