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Venice Buzz for ‘Lebanon’

Look for IFC’s Arianna Bocco and SPC’s Michael Barker and Tom Bernard to be battling it out for Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon. It just received its world premiere in Venice yesterday. The verdict so far: Three reviews. Three thumbs up.

Look for IFC’s Arianna Bocco and SPC’s Michael Barker and Tom Bernard to be battling it out for Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon. It just received its world premiere in Venice yesterday. The verdict so far: Three reviews. Three thumbs up.

Variety: “Visceral, torn-from-the-memory filmmaking that packs every punch except one to the heart, “Lebanon” is the boldest and best of the recent mini-wave of Israeli pics (“Beaufort,” “Waltz With Bashir”) set during conflicts between the two countries. Ironically, writer-director Samuel Maoz’s pic, 99.9% of which is set within an Israeli tank, actually has the least to do with Lebanon per se. The story could be set in any tank, any country, any war — a cinematic Kammerspiel that’s as much a formal challenge for its creator as it is a claustrophobic experience for audiences. With fest kudos, arthouse chances look solid.”

Screen Daily: “Set for a place of honour in world festivals and specialised art cinemas, Lebanon was an unusually long time in the making due to problems securing investment and the technical challenges of shooting an entire film inside a tank. It features some of Israel’s brightest young talents, covered in sweat and grime for the most part, convincingly reenacting some of the worst moments of Maoz’s life – possibly not in exact detail, but how he remembers them now.”

The Hollywood Reporter: “Compared to Ari Folman’s sophisticated animation-memory “Waltz With Bashir,” another autobiographical film that dealt with the same war, “Lebanon” takes a very different, experiential approach to describe the sheer horror of warfare, rather than its political background. At times it seems the film, which goes heavy on close-ups and dialogue to make the most of a low budget, could have been set during World War II. That said, viewers with a strong interest in Israel and the Middle East are likely to make up the lion’s share of the international audience for this disturbing, high-voltage festival film.”

The First Lebanon War, June, 1982. A lone tank and a platoon of paratroopers are dispatched to search a hostile town that has been bombarded by the Israeli Air Force. The mission gets out of control and turns into a death trap. Night falls and the wounded troops remain trapped in the center of a town in ruins, unable to communicate with the central command and surrounded by Syrian commandos closing in on all sides. The film’s heroes are the tank crew: Shmulik the gunner, Assi the commander, Herzl the loader and Yigal the driver, four 20 year old boys, operating a killing machine. They are not courageous war heroes, eager for battle or self-sacrifice. All they have is a terrible fear of death.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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