“How much relief came after despair and how much joy came after sadness.”
In the Shadow of Beirut is the International Feature submission for Ireland. Lebanon is currently in its worst economic crisis ever due to corruption and a broken political system. The poverty in the country has increased from 42% to 82% in only two years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been living in impoverished neighbourhoods, mainly in Sabra and Shatila, including more than 30,000 people crammed in less than one square kilometre. Beirut’s poorest people live in these areas, alongside the displaced Palestinian people, the nomadic community, and families who escaped the war in Syria. This documentary follows four families from 2018 to 2022. These are their stories.
Once described as the Paris of the Middle East, the film focuses on Rabia, a mother who can’t afford to take her chronically ill daughter to the hospital and Aboodi, a young father who was in prison for four years and is trying to rebuild his life for his son. Meanwhile, Ayman is preparing to offer up his daughter for marriage to a man who looks decent and lastly, Abu Ahmad, an eight year old boy, who works from 7am to 9pm for $3 USD per day. The camera highlights the stark realities of their lives, and the lives of countless other people who wake up every morning not knowing if they’ll be able to eat that day.
There are countless individuals who become trapped in the cycle of homelessness. And breaking the cycle becomes impossible when young people, like all the children in the film, are unable to gain an education, thus making it that much more difficult to get a job that pays a liveable wage in the future. To add to that, non Lebanese citizens are faced with numerous restrictions, such as being unable to work in certain professions and being unable to own property. The documentary witnesses it all, and provides an insight on why it’s such a challenge to break the vicious cycle of poverty from one generation to the next.
But the beauty of the film is the resilience and the hope that every single family clings to despite having all the odds stacked against them. They all have perseverance, confidence and the courage to begin each day anew hoping to overcome their obstacles and their setbacks from the lives that they were given. They all have dreams. They all have goals. They all hope that in the future their lives will be better.
This powerful documentary gives a voice to the invisible families who are living in the shadows of Beirut in Sabra and Shatila. They, for once, have been seen and heard.