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The Soil and the Sea

average rating is 4 out of 5


Jason Knight


Posted on:

Mar 7, 2024

Film Reviews
The Soil and the Sea
Directed by:
Daniele Rugo
Written by:
Elias Khoury

Stories about the atrocities of the Lebanese Civil War.


This feature-length documentary is filled with accounts about the devastating experiences and losses that people in Lebanon went through because of this terrible conflict. These people, are the interviewees and they describe the events that led to them losing a loved one, suffering brutality in the hands of the militia and witnessing unspeakable things.


The structure of the documentary is quite interesting. None of the interviewees are seen or officially identified. Instead it is their voice-over gives them presence as they narrate their harrowing stories. While they speak, the film goes through shots that are usually related to the described events. For instance, while one person talks about an incident at a university, their voice-over is accompanied by shots of an educational institution and when another refers to a monastery, a monastery is on-screen. The film moves from one person's account to the next and every story begins with a date and a place for events that took place during the war in various locations across Lebanon, including Beit Meri, Tripoli and Anjar. For the vast majority of the feature, people are absent from the screen, leaving mostly buildings and landscapes to be present. By utilising this technique, the filmmakers make Lebanon the protagonist of this feature in some ways, revealing how the country has suffered due to the conflict as well as its citizens.


The score by Yara Asmar succeeds in creating a dramatic atmosphere and deserves praise. However, the real drama is developed by the interviewee's words, as they tell their dark and distressing stories. They talk about bombings, seeing dead people everywhere, having loved ones disappearing and being taken away themselves and being subjected to interrogation and torture. Listening to them is quite upsetting.


The documentary specifically points out the fact that the war caused people to place many victims in the ocean or in mass graves throughout Lebanon. This shocking information reveals some of the horrifying consequences of war and how chaotic things were in that country during the conflict.


Rugo does a terrific job as the director and creates many great shots of buildings, landscapes, ruins and the ocean. The parade scenes provide an insight into Lebanon's culture and the archival footage highlights the inhuman events that occurred.


This dramatic documentary explores the Lebanese Civil War through the perspective of civilians, revealing the atrocities of that conflict and the tremendous suffering that it brought. It is a memorable viewing that makes the viewer aware of the destructive effects of war.

About the Film Critic
Jason Knight
Jason Knight
Indie Feature Film, Documentary, World Cinema
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