The Lebanese Civil War isn’t discussed much in public – people talk about “amnesia” or “closing the file” on the topic – particularly since most of the war’s participants were granted amnesty. Movies are one of the best ways to learn more about the war’s history, and there are some good ones available (the most famous is the long Al Jazeera series).

In honor of the anniversary of the war’s outbreak this week, you may want to give Zeina Sfeir’s short documentary “In Spite of War” a watch. The film, which you can stream online here, looks at what life was like for Lebanese people adjusting to “normal life" ten year’s after the war’s end.

But it’s not your typical somber war film, to say the least. Sfeir, who was born just a few months after the war began, refers to the war as her “oldest friend,” and interviews friends, family members, and other people about how the war affected them. One woman recalls feeling a kind of “ecstasy” after she thought war would return to Lebanon, and former soldiers complain about how people perceive them now that the fighting is over.



But is the war really over? According to Zeina’s father, a well-known barber at the Phoenicia Hotel, it may not have even begun.



One of the film’s subjects – Eliane Raheb (also the director of the recent documentary ‘Sleepless Nights’) – criticized what she sees as widespread efforts to plaster over the war’s destruction and to portray the Civil War as a “war of others on Lebanese soil.”

Everything in this country is trying to make us believe that everything is fine. That the tourism is great and the girls are great, the restaurants, the culture, the theaters and the culture.



Reflecting the subsequent generation’s failure to write the war’s history, “In Spite of War” includes interviews with people from varying sects about their knowledge of the war. Where were you on April 13, 1975? Like most Beirut.com readers, the first interviewee wasn’t even born yet. Someone else recalls: a group of Christians fired on a bus, and the war began. Who was on the bus? Either Palestinians or Muslims. Another person says – It was Syrians on the bus. One man says simply “Some events led to war…. We had nothing to do with it.” Nobody can agree – even an eyewitness and a man whose best friend was the driver of the famous bus in Ain El Remmaneh can’t agree.



As a director, Sfeir goes to pains not ally with any one particular side. She acknowledges her own inability to make sense of the war, particularly after the creation of a Christian alliance with the Syrian forces, once deemed an enemy. She interviews both Christians and Muslims and appears to give equal weight to both perspectives. Instead she throws herself into the task of remembering what happened during the war, while keeping in mind the postmodernist conviction that the single “truth” of any event is impossible to determine.

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