Memory requires active cultivation to exist: what we remember depends on the narratives we tell ourselves and others. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s Memory Box is a beautifully textured ode to the act of remembrance, and to keeping memory alive by passing it on to others.

For Christmas, and in the middle of a Montréal snowstorm, a box of mementoes arrives for Maia (Rim Turki). In her absence, her mother Téta (Clémence Sabbagh) and her daughter Alex (Paloma Vauthier) accept the package from the delivery man. Like any forbidden thing, this memory box exudes an irresistible temptation for Alex, who knows little about her mother’s youth. Unearthing the contents where they are soon stored in the basement, she finds notebooks, photographs and cassette tapes, all sent by Maia from 1980s Beirut to her best friend in Paris.

These objects are all stunningly curated by the art department: inspired by the lives and keepsakes of the director duo, the box contains an assemblage of material, both real and fictional. As Alex discovers facets of her mother’s life in Lebanon, scenes captured in photographs or narrated on tape come to life in the film. Whenever Alex shares snapshots she takes with her iPhone with her group of friends, past and present – digital and analogue – collide.

Underscored by a vibrant ‘80s soundtrack, the ups and downs of young Maia’s (Manal Issa) teenage years, including her first love, come alive on screen in experimental collage montages which steadily grow into longer scenes. For her adult self, opening up to her daughter becomes an act of recovery, culminating in a cathartic journey to Beirut to attend her friend’s funeral.

Ultimately transcending the personal, Memory Box documents a greater part of Lebanese history through the lives of its characters. The film itself becomes a curated time capsule, filled with sensual and visual impressions that last long after viewing.



CAST: Rim Turki, Manal Issa, Paloma Vauthier, Clémence Sabbagh, Hassan Akil

DIRECTORS: Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige

WRITERS: Gaëlle Macé, Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige

SYNOPSIS: Maia, a single mother, lives in Montreal with her teenage daughter, Alex. On Christmas Eve, they receive an unexpected delivery: notebooks, tapes, and photos Maia sent to her best friend from 1980’s Beirut.