Bianca is a freelance journalist and documentary critic. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

In Beirut, one man creates a puzzle of the city’s past in order to tell some painful stories left untold but not forgotten.

In 1983, during the Lebanese civil war, artist, animator and now first time film director Ghassan Halwani witnessed the kidnapping of a man he knew. Many years later, Halwani thought he saw that man in a crowd. It was only for a moment but enough to stir the memory of a period that left thousands of unanswered questions.

Taken but not forgotten

The disappearance he witnessed was one of the many thousands of disappearances during a civil war that lasted for a decade and a half. An overwhelming amount of these cases remain unsolved to this day. Combining visual tools – from photos and drawings to maps, text and his own animations – Halwani’s debut film is an emotionally powerful experimental essay. Through his efforts to not let the disappeared be forever forgotten, the film explores what remains of a collective drama when authorities, time and the flux of life come together to erase from memory not only what happened but the very identities of those people who lived and are no more.

Halwani was not alone in witnessing that man being taken away. Someone else took a photo, and that photo appears at the beginning of the film. It’s not the original version. Halwani modified it to erase both the kidnappers and the victim. Only a shoe and a hat are still visible, and he placed the text from the t-shirt the kidnapped man was wearing on a wall in the background. «I gave it my best shots» the text reads.

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