LEILA FADEL, HOST:
When Israel invaded Lebanon 40 years ago, Lebanese filmmaker Oualid Mouaness was a kid attending an idyllic school.
OUALID MOUANESS: I do remember everything being so beautiful and everything sort of changing.
FADEL: His movie, "1982," retells that time of his life.
MOUANESS: This is not a film about the war; this is a film about us, about people, about the fact that we're - we can be anywhere in the world and this could happen. And it was really important to show a human side of who we are as Lebanese people.
FADEL: And so he tells a coming-of-age story through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy named Wissam.
MOUANESS: What drove me at the time was love. Love is the only way to find hope. And it was actually an emotion that I was very much going through.
FADEL: Oualid Mouaness set the scene for us both as he remembered it as a child and as he depicted it in his film, "1982."
MOUANESS: We went to school. It was a normal school day, and then all of a sudden, literally the world got too close to home. Sonically, the sounds of airplanes going just became very, very constant.
(SOUNDBITE OF AIRCRAFT)
MOUANESS: And then as they got louder and louder, really, the teachers could not hide it anymore.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "1982")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, non-English language spoken).
MOUANESS: And even though we had the sense that we weren't going to get bombed, per se, everything was so invasive in terms of the sound and the nature and the country that we had to be sent home.
MOUANESS: And that's when we realized also, I was fortunate to be in a very mixed school in Lebanon at the time, which was not very common.
FADEL: And when you talk about mixed, you're talking about religiously mixed.
MOUANESS: Yes, exactly. There were all religions in my school, and it was a very good school. So there were kids from both sides of the divide and all sides of the...
FADEL: West and East Beirut.
MOUANESS: West and East Beirut - and those kids who came from West Beirut would be driven in the morning. They had to go through checkpoints to get to the school and then go home. And what became very clear that day is, suddenly, all of the crossings were shut down. And the kids who - could not go back to their homes in West Beirut. Nobody could get through on the phone lines.
MOUANESS: It was, like, emotional for the teachers. It was emotional for the kids.
FADEL: And as the day becomes more dangerous, there is a physical separation of the students once they're trying to get them home, right?
MOUANESS: It's the separation not only between the children but between the adult worlds and the kids' worlds. So as kids, we don't really care. And this film really goes there. We don't really care if someone was a Muslim or Christian. We're - they're our playmates. We feel the same. We can love each other. We can do everything together. And then as the adult world sort of starts to infringe on the children's world, then you get to see the separation. It's the first time that the kids realize that, no, there's things that are going to separate us and differentiate us as we grow up.
FADEL: So Wissam is in love with this girl from West Beirut, and he's just trying to figure out how to tell her he loves her. And there is also this conversation between him and his brother where he's like, OK, let's make a deal.
FADEL: You help me with my love; I'll help you with yours. But his request is to get to West Beirut through the checkpoints.
FADEL: And I remember the brother asking him, well, is she Muslim? And it's the first time you get a sense of what the civil war in Lebanon, which has been going on for six years at this point, is about - the interreligious fighting, the Muslim-Christian divide.
MOUANESS: Yeah. I mean, this was, for me, very important. I mean, it's very subtle. But when it's put in such a context, it also tells you, like, that as you grow up, you're sort of forced by society and by the politics to actually kind of take sides.
MOUANESS: And fear - the young kid is fearless. His brother has fear. He doesn't.
MOUANESS: And that's why his brother is - asks - tells him, are you crazy? You want to go to West Beirut? And Wissam doesn't care because he's not afraid. You know, for him, being able to profess and see this girl is more important than anything that could come between them, including a war or a checkpoint.
FADEL: So as the kids are sort of figuring out their friendships and their loves, the teachers are trying to protect them from that day. And Wissam's teacher is a woman, Yasmine, played by Nadine Labaki, and she's in her own love story as well, but she has political differences with her partner but also her brother, who is clearly in a militia. He's gone to the south. And she's a teacher at this school. Can you speak about the way the adults are interacting, both with the children and each other in this moment?
MOUANESS: What was very important for me is to represent two very complete worlds.
MOUANESS: You had the world of the adults and the world of the kids. And the world of adults in any war is a very contaminated world. It's a world that's driven by ideology, by religion, by social mores. And I wanted to represent those two worlds distinctly and separately. You know, in most parts of the world, there's the left and the right, and her brother's on the right. Her - the man she's in love with is on the left. And she's - she loves both of them. And she's in the middle of it, which is really a reflection of almost every mother in Lebanon...
MOUANESS: ...At the time. And in this case, you have the character of Yasmine, Nadine Labaki's character, really finding herself in the midst of this polemic, of this division in Lebanon that is very important. And she's trying to bring it together.
FADEL: You play with magical realism, and Wissam throughout the movie is drawing his favorite character, a superhero who can create a shield of protection. And in this moment where the kids can see Beirut under fire, fighter jets ahead, explosions, he imagines that for his city. And I just could not stop crying watching that. And I think - I'm not sure why. But what were you doing with that moment?
MOUANESS: When I started writing this film, I knew that this is the moment - this is where the film needed to end because this is a film about the kids and about hope.
MOUANESS: And I felt like - I felt kids have unfettered imagination, and they see a world differently. And in this case, there are so many reasons I felt that this was 100% the way the film should - I should leave the audience because I think the film is - as beautiful as the narrative is, it gets really tough for the viewer, that I felt - if I managed to have the viewer be Wissam, then they will feel what I felt in the necessity of this, which is basically the dream. This film lifts the mirror and reminds us, like, OK, we need to find another way. The end of the film is somewhat a miracle, but at the same time it's the real desire of every Lebanese person - as a matter of fact, every person who watches the film and taps into the fact that this film is not solely about Lebanon; this film is really about every war.
FADEL: Oualid Mouaness is the director of "1982." Thank you so much for this conversation.
MOUANESS: Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate it.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCTOR FLAKE'S "SUNDAY AFTERNOON")
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