TIFF Review: Lebanon War Drama '1982' Makes the Political Personal

Directed by Oualid Mouaness

Starring Nadine Labaki, Mohamad Dalli, Gia Madi, Rodrigue Sleiman

BY Matt BobkinPublished Sep 23, 2019

Asking out your crush on the schoolyard playground may be one of the most nervewracking childhood rites of passage, but imagine doing so under the looming threat of war. That encapsulates the tension of 1982, which chronicles the goings-on of teachers and students at a private school in Beirut at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War.
Thanks to well-cast child actors, including Mohamad Dalli as precocious Wissam and Gia Madi as high-achieving Joana, the low-stakes drama is tense enough to get invested in, even as the ground the kids stand on threatens to crumble beneath their feet. Meanwhile, homeroom teacher Yesmine (Nadine Labaki) struggles to balance her duties as teacher and exam administrator with her personal relationships as impacted by the larger conflict.
Despite the talented child actors, Yesmine is the film's heart and its head, driving the real-world stakes the film builds itself around. Labaki, fresh from directing the Oscar-nominated film Capernaum, reminds that she's just as talented in front of the camera as she is behind it, capturing the tension between her efforts to stay calm for the children while her personal life — including political disagreements with her coworker boyfriend, an ailing father, a rebellious brother and a panicking mother. Labaki skilfully juggles all of the situations her character is thrust into, anchoring the film's dramatic weight so the child actors can balance it out with their youthful antics.
It all leads to a tense, heartfelt and moving exploration of the myriad ways divisive politics seep into every facet of human existence, a powerful message in today's divided political climate. With strong performances and a haunting, slow-burning story, 1982 has a lot to get invested in.
(Mad Dog Films)

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