Stories from Afar & Up Close

And the Resistance can even cure cancer!

Last Monday was Liberation Day, and to celebrate the end of the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon in 2000 we went to Bir Hassan to see the movie ‘Ahl el wafa’ (‘the loyal people’). It’s the story of a Resistance operation in 1994 against the Israeli army and their collaborators (the South Lebanese Army) in the valley of Nabatiyeh, as directed by the famous Syrian director Najdat Anzour. A group of fighters from the Resistance (the name of their party is never specified) is smuggled into an old house in an occupied village, from where they attack an Israeli convoy that is patrolling the road below Beaufort Castle. We knew the movie was coming because we happened to be in Beaufort Castle on the day they were training for the special effects, and we expected quite a bit of it because they had flown in a stunt-team from the USA – and those people know how to make dead bodies fly around, after all.

We were not disappointed in the flying bodies department. There was plenty of blood, explosions, burning soldiers and throwing of handgrenades. The fighting scenes, preceded by lots of crawling around in the bushes to get to the desired destination unseen, were supported by upliftingly ballistic music known from the promotional videos of Hezbollah on Al Manar TV.

The acting, however, was worse than a Mexican soap-opera. On top of that, there was a second storyline about a girl whose nagging mother suffers from cancer and cannot get the right medication because of the occupation, and the girl is harassed by a member of the South Lebanese Army who doesn’t care that she’s already married – he wants her, and he and his evil grin just pretend that her wounded husband doesn’t exist.

The girl is obviously added to show human dilemma: she discovers the group of Resistance fighters hiding in her (grand)parents’ abandoned house, but they trust her and let her go when she promises she won’t tell anybody. The girl is torn; if she tells the Israelis about her find, she can get money to help her mother! Or get the SLA-guy to stop harassing her! It’s so hard to decide what to do! But she doesn’t rat on the Resistance fighters, and is rewarded for her loyalty by the fact that the evil SLA-guy is among those who die in the attack on the convoy, and the Resistance transfers her mother to a beautiful hospital where she suddenly stops nagging.

They added one more scene – in the end, she offers the Resistance the key to the house, a not so subtle invocation of the Palestinian symbolism of carrying with them the keys to their old houses as the last proof that the places were really theirs, and here she voluntarily gives it to the Resistance… a fitting ending to a beautiful piece of propaganda ideological movie. Go see it if you have a chance.