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Review of “Diaries from Lebanon” (2024), a documentary directed by Myriam El Hajj.
Review of "Diaries from Lebanon" (2024), a documentary directed by Myriam El Hajj.

Review of “Diaries from Lebanon” (2024), a documentary directed by Myriam El Hajj.

A man was present who took pleasure in harming us.

Lebanon is a completely f**ed up country and has been for many years, with local cinema, either in the form of features or documentaries, presenting the fact in the most eloquent fashion. Myriam El Hajj also moves in the same path, through a docudrama implementing the form of three video diaries, which narrates four tumultuous years in the recent history of the nation, starting with 2018.

The three arcs center on three individuals and two significant occurrences. Joumana is a feminist writer, poet, and activist who ran for the Lebanese parliament in 2018 and was ultimately successful in her election. However, the Lebanese system is not accepting of such events, and she was deceitfully removed from office the very next day, leaving her supporters enraged. Her story reveals how she coped after this entire ordeal. Perla Joe is also a passionate opponent of the current system and her cries of frustration eventually became a symbol of the uprising in the country. Georges is a veteran of the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990, during which he lost a leg. Caught between his bitterness towards the past and his judgment of the present, he also seems to hold some violent secrets, though it remains unclear if they are true or not.

with Josep

You may also want to take a look at this interview with Josep.

Two significant events that greatly affected the “protagonists” were the 2019 civil protests that resulted in a revolution leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the infamous 2020 Beirut explosion, which also prompted the resignation of then-PM Hassan Diab.

The portrayal of three individuals’ lives and two significant events sheds light on the recent history of Lebanon in a powerful, genuine, and expressive manner. The ongoing struggles and challenges faced by the country are depicted in a raw and impactful manner. The forceful removal of Joumana, Perla Joe’s determined attempt to create change, and Georges’ refusal to let go of a glorious past all contribute to this depiction. Ultimately, the characters come to a pessimistic realization that despite their efforts, the situation continues to deteriorate without any real improvement.

However, the significance of resistance is also emphasized, despite potentially imperfect outcomes, through the subtle changes in attitude and actions of the two women, which are evident from the start. While the protests that led to a revolution are a positive step forward, the recent explosion seems to have set everyone back, revealing the failure of the country’s system. As Joumana discusses having to take sleeping pills to cope with the aftermath of the explosion and Georges struggles to sleep at all, the PTSD resulting from the explosion becomes evident, underscoring its impact on citizens and instilling fear in them.

The rotation between the three individuals of interest, along with the contrast between the genders and generations, is made apparent. This method also showcases the work of Anita Perez and Stéphanie Sicard in the editing process, as shown through the shifting focus and varied footage (such as TV shows, public and private discussions, driving through the city, and visits to the barber). Despite its 110-minute runtime, the film feels shorter due to these changes and the dichotomy presented by the explosion. Additionally, incorporating drama into the story, although not as prominent as suggested by promotional material, aids in this aspect.

“Diaries from Lebanon” powerfully encapsulates the turbulent saga of Lebanon through the lives of Joumana, Perla Joe, and Georges, while remaining intriguing from beginning to end due to the varying charisma of its protagonists and the many different approaches to her subject

Myriam El Hajj joins.