For an issue that’s dominated U.S. foreign policy and the world stage for more than half a century and counting, the Israeli-Arab conflicts of the Middle East receive virtually no cinematic attention. Luckily, the last few years has seen an Israeli/Palestinian film renaissance in addressing various components of this conflict, ranging from Kippur‘s insight on the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Paradise Now‘s tense profile of a pair of suicide bombers and Waltz With Bashir‘s hazy pastiche of the Lebanon War. On the heels of the latter’s critical acclaim, another film about the 1982 Lebanon War ,Lebanon, has gut-punched its way to winning the the top prize at the recent Venice Film Festival.
Set during 1982’s Israel-Lebanon War, Lebanon takes place almost entirely in the cramped confines of an Israeli tank. With outside views coming only from a view through scope, Lebanon follows 24 hours in the lives of a tank commander, gunner, loader and driver as they invade Lebanon and endure a battle known for its ferocity and tragedy. Lebanon is directed and written by Samuel Maoz, a former Israeli tank soldier who, like Waltz With Bashir‘s Ari Folman, brings autobiographical impact to an attempt to address and heal personal scars.
Having won in Venice, we’ll probably see Lebanon debut stateside, but in hyper-limited art house release. Don’t let the all Hebrew trailer (with no subtitles), put you off– the inability to understand the language doesn’t make it any less impactful.