Lebanese films show dysfunctional sectarian society

Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:32pm EDT
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By Andrew Hammond

ABU DHABI (Reuters Life!) - A stark theme of political, economic and social dysfunction runs through a series of Lebanese films that won plaudits at a film festival in Abu Dhabi this week, showing a society riven by sectarian tension.

Lebanon's politics has been sharply divided since a 15-year civil war ended in 1990 and sectarianism has been exacerbated by foreign backing for one coalition led by Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah and another led by Sunni Muslims.

A rapturous reception by some Lebanese this month for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the anger of others at his visit, highlighted how deep the divide runs.

In Maher Abi Samra's "We Were Communists," rewarded as best Arab documentary at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival which ended on Saturday, former activists discuss how crass sectarianism has defined the post-war landscape despite their hopes for a new society as they fought Israeli invasion during the civil war.

"Today there is no national resistance, there is only sectarian resistance," Maher, who has returned from France, says in the film.

In Bahij Hojeij's "Here Comes The Rain," which took the prize for best Arabic narrative, a man kidnapped during the war is released after some 20 years in captivity.

Ramez has trouble fitting back into family life and finds solace with the wife of another missing person whose fate is unknown. She finally finds closure when Ramez confesses that he shared a cell with her husband before he died.

Mohamed Soueid's documentary "How Bitter My Sweet" takes six ordinary characters who dwell at the fringes of society and the informal economy, defying cliches about Lebanon as the glamour capital of the Arab world.   Continued...

<p>Lebanese Director Bahij Hojeij (L) holds up his award for the Best Narrative Film from the Arab World for "Here Comes the Rain", during the award ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival October 22, 2010. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah</p>