Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, director Oualid Mouaness’ contemplative drama film “1982” explores the anxiety of war for those who never wished to take part in it. For the teachers and students at a private school in East Beirut, what should have been a “normal” last day of classes becomes anything but, as the distant sounds of bombing come closer and closer. It is 1982, and Beirut, divided between Muslims on the west and Christians on the east, teeters on the cusp of invasion as Israel and Syria fight overhead. Meanwhile, the teachers — Yasmina (played by Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki) and Joseph (Lebanese actor Rodrigue Sleiman) — struggle to maintain calm for their pupils while contending with their own personal politics. For Yasmina, this comes with the anxiety that her own brother has entered the fray.
Despite the tension and impending danger, the heart of the film rests with the youthful efforts of 11-year-old Wissam (Mohamad Dalli) to confess his love to his crush Joana (Gia Madi). “1982” captures the human dimension of the conflict from a place of innocence, with those who reluctantly found their lives embroiled in war. Above all, the film comes from a deeply personal memory. “I was 10 when this invasion happened, and it marked me. It had to be addressed. I had to find a way to express my memory of that life altering day,” director Mouaness told Sydney Levine in a feature article on SydneysBuzz. Growing up between Lebanon and Liberia, his own experiences influenced the film’s direction. “I opted to tell the story through Wissam’s eyes because a child’s view of conflict was true to my experience of that war. For me it is necessary to express our history, so I set out to make this film from the point of view I was most grounded in, my ten-year-old experience of it.” The film, which was Lebanon’s entry for the Best International Feature in the 2019 Oscars, explores the complexities of love and war.