Lost in Lebanon

 

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The experiences of four refugees are all the more shocking for being nothing out of the ordinary.

 
Lost in Lebanon


 

The Scott Sisters, Sophia and Georgia, are filmmakers working with a very particular agenda in mind. Their first feature, In the Shadow of War was made in 2014 and now we have Lost in Lebanon both of them being  documentaries expressing concern at the way in which wars displace people and often leave them homeless and uprooted. This new film illustrates that by recording the experiences of four Syrians - three men and one woman - who sought sanctuary in Lebanon. Their ages range from 19 to 39 and at 80 minutes the cinema version of this film gives us time to get to know them (there is a shorter treatment for television).

 
Early on we learn of the refugee camp at Akkar in the north run by Sheikh Abdo with a German colleague, an enterprise that extends to a Peace Centre and to an informal  school where Nemr, the youngest of the four, works as a volunteer. The other two, Mwafak, an artist, and Reem, an architect whose parents visit her from Syria, are living in Beirut, but wherever they are situated the problems encountered are the same. Those who have visas find themselves unable to extend them when they run out and very few refugees are given permission to move on to other countries be it for training or a longer stay. Meanwhile, the sheer numbers who have arrived from Syria - many to escape from being made to take up arms - have led to an abandonment of the earlier open border policy.

 

An extra concern in this instance is the fact that the Lebanese can readily succumb to the belief that many of the refugees are in fact terrorists working for ISIS. Perhaps the most important aspect of Lost in Lebanon is that it tells ordinary stories, not extraordinary ones when it comes to the lives of the four refugees featured and we come to like all of them. The film portrays such people with a human face and, in so doing, echoes the outlook of Mwafak who, asked for his reasons for helping young Syrian refugees, declares that he doesn't think of them as Syrians or as refugees but just as children.

 

As filmmaking, Lost in Lebanon is less than perfect. If the TV timing (54 minutes) is surely too short, 80 minutes proves rather too long and that's largely due to the fact that the later sequences lack shape. These scenes are chronological and ever more despairing as befits the facts, but moving arbitrarily back and forth between the four central figures make for an episodic feel rather than a clear summation or climax. That failing affects my rating but does nothing to lessen the value of Lost in Lebanon as a human document.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Reem, Nemr, Mwafak, Sheikh Abdo, Sheikh Abdo’s wife.

 

Dir Sophia Scott and Georgia Scott, Pro The Scott Sisters and Jane Wells, Ph Sophia Scott, Ed Georgia Scott with Marwan Ziadeh, Music Nainita Desai.

 

Scott Sisters/GroundTruth/3 Generations-DocHouse.
80 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 19 May 2017. Cert. No cert.