Venice Film Festival Winner - Lebanon





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Published on Sep 3, 2010

June, 1982 - The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare. The four members of a tank crew find themselves in a violent situation that they cannot contain. Motivated by fear and the basic instinct of survival, they desperately try not to lose themselves in the chaos of war.

The new war (or anti-war) film Lebanon was nominated for 10 Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars), including Best Film & won top honors at the Venice International Film Festival. Watch scenes from the movie & an interview with the director, Samuel Maoz.

The film depicts the inside of a tank, and the view from inside through the gunsight (every change in the horizontal and vertical viewing direction is accompanied by the hydraulic whine of the traversing gun turret). There are four Israeli soldiers inside: the driver in the tank's hull, and the loader, the gunner and the commander in the turret. Part of the time, there is also the body of a dead Israeli soldier (kept there until it is taken away by helicopter), a Syrian POW, a visiting higher officer, and a visiting Phalangist (Lebanese Maronite Catholic allied with Israel) who threatens the POW.

The duty of the soldiers is to clear a Lebanese area of hostile fighters. They are instructed to use phosphorus grenades that are forbidden by international treaty, but to use a code word for them, to conceal their use.

The gunner has never fired the tank's cannon in a war situation, and is hesitant at first. As a result, a fellow Israeli soldier is killed. The soldiers have to cope with the deteriorating state of the tank, the heat, bad atmosphere and small space inside, occasional failure of the communication equipment, navigational problems, and mutual quarrels.

After winning the Golden Lion at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, Maoz said: "I dedicate this award to the thousands of people all over the world who, like me, come back from war safe and sound. Apparently they are fine, they work, get married, have children. But inside the memory will remain stabbed in their soul."

Maoz, when speaking to the The Observer stated that he opposes the Israel-related protest call at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival: "The point of a film like mine is to open a dialogue, to get people talking to each other about important issues. This is something you can't do if films are boycotted. It makes no sense to boycott art. Maybe I wouldn't have won if Jane Fonda was on the jury, but she wasn't."

The Guardian described it as a "controversial choice", noting that some commentators in Israel have "raised concerns that the film will deter young men from volunteering for the army."

The Golden Lion is the highest award given to an Israeli film to date. Maoz says many Israeli figures were against Lebanon even being featured at the Venice International Film Festival. The Venice jury was chaired by Ang Lee, who had won the Golden Lion award in Venice in 2005 with Brokeback Mountain and in 2007 with Lust, Caution. Lebanon competed against 24 other entries. The win in Venice caused a boost in the film's popularity at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The New York Times described Lebanon as "an astonishing piece of cinema".

Variety magazine said Lebanon is "the boldest and best" of recent Israeli films based upon the Lebanon wars.


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