VOID at the Big River Film Festival

The best thing about foreign cinema is its ability to open one’s eyes to the plights and troubles of real, relatable people that are happening in the places that we rarely pause to think about.

The Lebanese Civil War was a fifteen-year brawl that left over 17,000 families with missing sons, husbands, brothers, etc., and no confirmation whether they were living or dead. Only 18% of those missing were soldiers, meaning the remaining 82% were civilians that disappeared off the streets and have not been heard from to this day.

VOID, is a brave, poignant film taking a look at the lives of 6 women affected by this loss and their ongoing struggle to reconcile what they may never know. Directed by a team of seven dedicated artists, and with truly amazing performances throughout, it is clear this was a passion project for all involved.

Taking place in Beirut, with an incredible score to accompany it, we are given a heartbreaking look into the varying effects of grief on the women who were left to deal with the unexplained absence of their men – in a country where men determine their freedom.  

void movie big river film festival

One is an activist, hard at work organizing the Parliament Sit-In, demanding the reopening of her father’s case, and the thousands of others as well.

Another: a mother making biscuits and giving tirades of motherly advice to an empty chair and full plate.

An unmarried teacher, who spent her best years wishing for the return of her brother, yet is still without him.  

A young woman, the daughter of a missing activist, tired of hoping and struggling to know her mother’s desires and identity, amidst pressures from her traditionalist family to forget her.

The wife of a respected professor, feeling something for the lover she intended to dispose of, but is stuck in a marriage to a man who may well be dead.

Lastly, a woman happily married to a wealthy political figure, attending the sit in under the guise of bringing public awareness, but is really there to pay respect to her first love.

In the end, we see these women come together and discover a deeper truth about the grief that bonds them, and yet, affects them each in a profound and unique way.

There is so much to know and understand about the world, and films like VOID give us only a glimpse, but a necessary glimpse. Though not exactly an uplifting film, it is a cry for attention to the ongoing suffering of those seeking closure to a war that is already forgotten by most. As of March 2014, the Lebanese government has officially recognized some of the rights of these families of the missing, but despite the formation of several committees, no tangible achievement about their fates has been announced.

Watching this film may not directly help the cause, but the simple spreading of awareness can be a catalyst for the change that is needed for healing the wounds of war. And, at the very least, strengthen our empathy for the often, unknown struggles of fellow human beings in far reaching places like Lebanon. VOID was the official selection of Lebanon for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, a worthy film that addresses the cry of so many.