EIFF Review: Skies of Lebanon

Joseph and Alice meeting in a café

There’s never a dull moment in Lebanon. It’s sometimes good, sometimes bad, but life is never boring. With a civilisation dating back to the seafaring Phoenicians, its location in the Levant region bordering the Mediterranean Sea has afforded it a uniquely diverse culture. Beirut has long been a multicultural city, at one time or another occupied by the French, Greeks, Romans, Ottoman Turks and Arabs. However, conflict has never been too far away and war plays a central role in Skies of Lebanon.

Desperate to leave her Swiss homeland and overbearing parents behind, Alice (Alba Rohrwacher) jumps at the chance to go to Beirut. She soon falls in love with the warm and vibrant city. In a café one day the young woman meets Joseph Kamar (Wajdi Mouawad), an astrophysicist intent on sending the first Lebanese rocket into space. The pair fall hit it off and soon get married, forming part of a larger family unit, but years later war casts a shadow over their happiness.

The joy of Skies of Lebanon is in its intricate creation. Cinematography bathed in vivid hues melds with animation and a plethora of different styles. Director Chloé Mazlo uses a background in graphic design, family history and a seemingly fertile imagination to produce a visually memorable portrait of family life during wartime. The story doesn’t quite keep pace with this inventiveness but nevertheless Skies of Lebanon is an assured and entertaining drama.

Skies of Lebanon screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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