Lebanon (film)

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Film poster
Directed bySamuel Maoz
Written bySamuel Maoz
Produced byUri Sabag
Einat Bikel
StarringOshri Cohen
Itay Tiran
CinematographyGiora Bejach
Edited byArik Leibovitch
Music byAlex Claude, David Liss
Distributed byMetrodome Distribution (UK)
Release dates
  • 8 September 2009 (2009-09-08) (VIFF)
  • 24 September 2009 (2009-09-24) (Israel)
Running time
90 minutes
  • Israel
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
Budget$1.4 million[1]

Lebanon (Hebrew: לבנון Lvanon; called Lebanon: The Soldier's Journey in the UK) is a 2009 internationally co-produced war film directed by Samuel Maoz.[2] It won the Golden Lion at the 66th Venice International Film Festival,[3] becoming the first Israeli-produced film to have won that honour. In Israel itself the film has caused some controversy.[4] The film was nominated for ten Ophir Awards, including Best Film. The film also won the 14th Annual Satyajit Ray Award.[5]

Maoz based the film on his experience as a young Israeli conscript during the 1982 Lebanon War.[6][7] The British newspaper The Guardian has described it as an anti-war film.[4]


The film depicts warfare as witnessed exclusively from the inside of a Sho't battle tank. The crew's window to the outside world is a gunsight. As a way of adding realism to the effect, every change in the horizontal and vertical viewing directions is accompanied by the hydraulic whine of the traversing gun turret. The film is set during the 1982 Lebanon War. There are four Israeli soldiers inside: the driver in the tank's hull, the loader, the gunner and the commander in the turret. For part of the time there is also the body of a dead Israeli soldier (kept there until it is airlifted away), a Syrian POW, a visiting higher officer, and a visiting Phalangist who threatens the POW with torture and a gruesome death.

The soldiers are ordered to clear an area of Lebanese personnel. They are instructed to include the use of phosphorus grenades that are forbidden by international treaty.

The gunner has never fired the cannon in a combat situation and is hesitant at first. As a result, a fellow Israeli soldier is killed along with an innocent man in a subsequent incident involving equally poor judgment. The soldiers have to cope with the deteriorating state of the tank, heat, smoke, filth, stench, cramped quarters, equipment failure, navigational problems, conflicting information and recurring quarrels.


Oshri Cohen with the Golden Lion at the 66th Venice International Film Festival


The film received universal acclaim from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 90% out of 97 professional critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.7/10 and the site consensus being: "A powerful and personal account of war on the front line, writer-director Samuel Maoz takes the viewer inside an Israeli tank to deliver an exhausting, original film."[8]

After winning the Golden Lion at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, Maoz said: "I dedicate this award to the thousands of people all over the world who, like me, come back from war safe and sound. Apparently they are fine, they work, get married, have children. But inside the memory will remain stabbed in their soul."[9]

Maoz, when speaking to The Observer stated that he opposes the Israel-related protest call at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival: "The point of a film like mine is to open a dialogue, to get people talking to each other about important issues. This is something you can't do if films are boycotted. It makes no sense to boycott art. Maybe I wouldn't have won if Jane Fonda was on the jury, but she wasn't."[4] (Note that the open letter at the center of the protest against the spotlighting of Tel Aviv did not call for a boycott of the festival or any of its films.[10][11])

The Guardian described it as a "controversial choice", noting that some commentators in Israel have "raised concerns that the film will deter young men from volunteering for the army."[4] It has also been criticised as a "shooting and crying" film.[12] The Golden Lion is the highest award given to an Israeli film to date.[4] Maoz says many Israeli figures were against Lebanon even being featured at the Venice International Film Festival.[4] The Venice jury was chaired by Ang Lee, who had won the Golden Lion award in Venice in 2005 with Brokeback Mountain and in 2007 with Lust, Caution.[13] Lebanon competed against 24 other entries.[14] The win in Venice caused a boost in the film's popularity at the Toronto International Film Festival.[15]

The New York Times described Lebanon as "an astonishing piece of cinema".[6] Variety[16] magazine said Lebanon is "the boldest and best" of recent Israeli films based upon the Lebanon wars.[9][13]


  1. ^ Tomer Kamrling (6 November 2009). "עזוב הלם קרב, ספר לי על קולנוע". Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Lebanon". Lumiere. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  3. ^ "66th Venice International Film Festival: Official Awards". labiennale.org. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Jason Solomons (12 September 2009). "Colin Firth wins best actor at Venice film festival". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  5. ^ "The 2009 Satyajit Ray Award Winner: Lebanon". BFI. Archived from the original on 15 April 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b "'Lebanon' wins Golden Lion at Venice". RTÉ. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  7. ^ Erlanger, Stephen (30 July 2010), "'Lebanon', Samuel Maoz's Tank's-Eye View of War", The New York Times, retrieved 3 August 2010.
  8. ^ Lebanon (2010). Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b Rachel Lee Harris (13 September 2009). "'Lebanon' Wins in Venice". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  10. ^ Naomi Klein, "We don't feel like celebrating with Israel this year", The Globe and Mail, 8 September 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  11. ^ "An open letter to the Toronto International Film Festival", Rabble.ca, 3 September 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  12. ^ "See-Shoot-Cry - springerin | Hefte für Gegenwartskunst". www.springerin.at.
  13. ^ a b "Top Venice award for Israeli film". BBC. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  14. ^ "Israeli film 'Lebanon' wins Golden Lion in Venice". Khaleej Times. 13 September 2009. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  15. ^ Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit (13 September 2009). "Lido buzz heats titles in Toronto". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  16. ^ Elley, Derek (7 September 2009). "Lebanon". Variety.

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