A community drifting apart can feel like the end of the world. This is usually an illusion in the mind. In Mounia Akl’s award-winning short, the decomposition of the neighbourhood is very much tangible.

Submarine is set in the midst of the 2015 Lebanese garbage protests – where the closure of a waste facility saw residents leave their waste to pile high on the streets in defiance of the government’s neglect. Citizens were forced to leave their hometowns and emigrate to get out of the near-uninhabitable urbanities.

Hala (Yumma Marwan) clings desperately to her home as it physically falls to pieces around her – windows are smashed and rubbish bags pollute her flat and the streets. She is angered and dismayed that the government’s continued abandonment of the citizenry is forcing her friends, neighbours, and her lover to hop on the last ship out of town.

In her thesis film for Colombia University, Akl deftly realises the emotional angst that comes with holding onto something in your heart while everyone around screams to let it go. The melancholy is captured in the piece’s languorous editing and the stony yearning writ across Hala’s face.

The film’s centrepiece sees Hala pull together one last hurrah for the township at the Submarine – a watering hole of homely warmth, music, and love. When she first enters the shell of a bar, cavernous in its emptiness, and puts a gorgeous Lebanese ballad on the stereo, her tentative, lonely dancing hits really hard.

A gentle bit of movie trickery sees the shot beautifully transition into a scene of joy as the rest of the community joins her. Its dreamlike emergence is Akl’s most powerful assertion that home can always be found in the heart and mind, however far away life takes you.

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INFORMATION

DIRECTOR: Mounia Akl

WRITER: Mounia Akl

CAST: Yumma Marwan

SYNOPSIS: Under the imminent threat of Lebanon’s 2015 garbage crisis, Hala, a wild child inside of a woman, is the only one to refuse evacuation, clinging to whatever remains of home.