Review by EJ Argenio, NRFTW Correspondent
The sun has risen on another day as birds chirp from a distance. With the end of the academic year approaching, students of a private school on the edge of Beirut line up to take their final exams. For one 5th grade boy, getting the perfect grade is hardly the focus as he comes to terms with his affections for a fellow classmate. With a war in Lebanon looming, 1982 examines if there is a perfect time / place to tell someone that you love them.
Based on actual events, 1982 follows 11-year old Wissam (Mohamed Dalli) as he emotionally navigates his affections for fellow student Joana (Gia Madi) during one of the final exam days of the school year. As cultural and institutional restrictions hamper Wissam from making his feelings public, he and his classmates are faced with an even greater threat as war looms in the south of Lebanon. Having little knowledge of what is going on outside of their classroom, Wissam, Joana, and the other students seek counsel from teachers Yasmine (Nadine Labaki) and Joseph (Rodrigue Sleiman) whose mindset has also shifted from the classroom to a country in turmoil.
Oualid Mouaness makes his feature-film directorial debut with 1982 having also written the screenplay. While the premise of the film is far from grand, smaller tactics used by Mouaness as both writer and director help the story to go a long way.
Wissam, the film’s protagonist, is an innocent child on the brink of adolescence. For the first time in his life, his heart yearns for another. Hissam aims to uncover the appropriate way to share his emotions with the subject of his affection, Joana.
The type of discomfort Hissam feels is only natural, especially at his age. How does one properly take the mature step forward? Anyone who has ever had a crush can most likely relate, but for Wissam it is not just fear he must overcome. Within the screenplay, Mouaness makes audiences aware of the cultural world within the film. Lebanese society, as well as the educational institution Wissam attends, holds certain restrictions when it comes to romantic relationships, let alone those involving children. References within the script detail other students who have similar experiences to Wissam that allows audiences to see that the film’s featured character is battling more than his fleeting childhood.
All of this happens as a country prepares for war. Mouaness does a great job keeping audiences informed on the country’s plight all from within campus walls. From teachers listening to radio reports in their classrooms to the sounds of fighter jets in the sky culminating with the visuals of bombings in the southern part of the country. Audiences feel as though they are one of the students in the classroom. Something dangerous is happening, but what exactly? The biggest question audiences have is the same one being asked by the children of the school, is danger near?
As director Mouaness brings the most out of his actors, especially the children. Both Dalli and Madi, as well as supporting actors Ghassan Maalouf and Lelya Harkous, all made their acting debuts in 1982 (according to IMDB). This is extremely impressive since a lot of the film’s building tension relies on specific reactionary cues from these actors. Mouaness likely had a few stories to share with his child actors since he was also a student at Brummana High School where 1982 was filmed.
The concept of love during a period of war in nothing new when in terms of filmmaking. However, 1982 differs from its point of view, that of an 11-year old boy. Emotionally tender with an escalating tension, 1982 gives audiences a fresh perspective on love and war. 1982 will be released nationwide on VOD platforms Tuesday, January 19th.
Originally published at https://behindtherabbitproductions.wordpress.com on January 17, 2021.