This foreign film fan has a favorable prejudice for Film Movement DVD releases but this is not why I find this war-torn road movie brilliant. Under the Bombs, a Lebanese / French collaboration in Arabic with English subtitles is original and well told. It is proof you can say something important in a movie without having to scream or be didactic. This movie, part fiction part cinema verite is a must see.
Under the Bombs is about a Shiite woman looking for her son in war torn Lebanon and the Christian taxi driver who drives her around the ruins of a once beautiful country. Filmed in Lebanon during a UN supervised cease-fire after 33 days of air strikes (not specified in French but specified in the English subtitles as Israeli air strikes) this film is quite a memorable experience. I do not particularly care if a movie or a foreign film DVD teaches me something or shows me something new; I just want to be told a good story and entertained: Under the Bombs does all those things.
One of the many things that makes this movie work is that it is part fiction, the plot, and part cinema verite, the “scenery” and the people Zeina (Nada Abou Farhat) and taxi driver Tony (George Khabbaz) talk to. These are recently destroyed roads, buildings, schools, and lives. The story is fiction, the stories the people tell are not.
You would expect a movie like this to show its restricted budget and resources but director Philippe Aractingi manages to make a beautiful looking and polished film. The light and beauty of some scenes only adds to the drama of the destruction omnipresent in Under the Bombs. There are also some very odd moments of wonderfully dark humor and great humanity.
A great film is unique yet universal. This is very much the case for Under the Bombs.
The short included with this release is oddly titled Porn, a five minute film from Poland by Jan Wagner.