Coproduction: Vision House Productions and TVP
In the summer of 2020, a huge blast in the port of Beirut killed 218 people, injured more than 7,500 and destroyed half of the city. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and it shocked the world.
Why did it happen? An investigation is ongoing, but the victims’ families are demanding justice.
For young Lebanese living through one of the country’s biggest economic crises, the blast is the result of years of political chaos and corruption. The country faces shortages of fuel, power and medical supplies, and anger at the ruling class has spilled out on to the streets. Will Lebanon manage to escape a descent into violence?
The day of August 4, 2020 has changed the lives of people of Beirut.
Mireille Khoury, born during the sectarian and devastating civil war of the 1980s, believed in Lebanon and decided to stay. She lost her 15 year-old son Elias, a creative, happy boy with dreams of becoming a rap star, in the explosion. Her life has been crushed.
William Noun is the brother of a volunteer fireman, Joe, who was sent to put out the flames from 2700 tones of ammonium nitride burning in the port. Joe’s death and the authorities’ lack of accountability for the disaster has infuriated William.
Abou Jawde and Mortaja Haidar are the parents of triplets, born prematurely at St. Georges hospital in Beirut. Two of the babies were in incubators when the blast destroyed their hospital. The parents lived through moments of horror as they desperately searched to find their children in the aftermath. Pamela Zeinoun was a nurse from the paediatric unit at the hospital. Realising the babies’ lives were at risk, she raced through the streets of the devastated capital to find a hospital that would be able to take them. Her heroic act meant that Abou and Mortaja were eventually reunited with their children.
The blast is the starting point of a film that explores the hopes and dreams of a generation born during and immediately after Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990). Many young people have emigrated. But there are also those who believe that the country can change for the better. In the documentary, journalists, artists, and political activists reveal the dreams of young Lebanese who took to the streets to protest in 2019.
Beirut is the most open and cosmopolitan city of the Levant, often called the ‘Paris of the Orient’, a city of massive social contrasts and opportunities. It’s where Ronnie Chatah’s heart beats better. A walk with Ronnie, a tour guide and storyteller, is a trip deep into a city’s history. His personal story is intertwined with that of the city. His father, Mohamad, a former Minister of Finance and Lebanese ambassador to the US, was a victim of political assassination and is now buried in a city square.
The characters’ stories illuminate the complex world of Lebanon, where Muslims, Christians, Maronites and Druze live together, all hoping for better times. Those religious differences shape the political trends. Hezbollah and its political representatives seek to limit the influence of Western culture on Lebanese life. Makram Rabah from the American University of Bierut provides the historical context on what has driven and continues to drive those forces.
Today, Lebanon is a country where some victims’ families seek revenge. Where the scream of the young for change gets louder and louder. Revolution and violence may be around the corner. Will their anger lead to a permanent change in a country torn by internal conflicts and external interests?