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“Diaries From Lebanon:” A Riveting Portrayal of a Nation in Flux

In Myriam El-Hajj’s acclaimed documentary "Diaries from Lebanon," the central figures are a trio consisting of two women and one man. Premiering to great acclaim at the recent Berlin International Film Festival, the movie covers four years in which El-Hajj chronicles the ups and downs of their life, creating a compelling 110-minute film that is expertly crafted and emotionally charged.

Jointly produced by Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Qatar, and France, El-Hajj's project begins in 2018, depicting the evolution of passionate feminist author and poet Joumana Haddad into a resolute activist. Initially opting for the democratic route by contesting a seat in the Lebanese Parliament, Haddad is swiftly ousted in a blatantly fraudulent manner within 24 hours, igniting fury among her supporters. Months later, this discontent grew into a widespread revolution, drawing hundreds of thousands into its fold.

Among the throngs of protestors stands Perla Joe Maalouli, a young woman incensed by the suppression of her freedom of expression. Through the lenses of El-Hajj, Mohamed Siam, and Jihad Saad, the documentary intimately captures Maalouli's anguish, portraying her as a symbol of the youth's frustration with the status quo.

The third protagonist, George, harbors reflections on a specific incident from the past—his actions during the onset of the civil war, notably shooting down a bus and boasting about his alleged superiority over modern demonstrators in handling the conflict.

When El-Hajj delves into George's story, the documentary adopts an investigative tone, offering a nuanced exploration of Lebanon's political turmoil. El-Hajj's voiceover, infused with personal and political reflections, complements this narrative layer. Interwoven throughout is the tragic 2020 explosion in Beirut's port, which not only ravages parts of the city but also alters the lives of Haddad, Maalouli, and George.

"Diaries From Lebanon" comes to light as a powerful account of a country in upheaval, vacillating between love and despair and hope and disillusionment. Viewers should not miss El-Hajj's riveting representation, which skillfully conveys the unfiltered feelings of common people through captivating storytelling.

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