Venice fest film is based on wartime experience

The world preem of Samuel Maoz’s “Lebanon” in competition at Venice ends an almost three-decade trauma for the Israeli director that began with the Israel’s ill-fated decision to invade Lebanon in 1982.

At the very least, it should mark the beginning of the end.

Based on Maoz’s own experiences as a young soldier manning a tank’s cannon, “Lebanon” has had a tortuous journey to the bigscreen.

It took Maoz, tormented by his experiences in the war, nearly 20 years just to summon up the strength to write the script.

The film’s pre-production was disrupted in 2006 by the outbreak of a new war between Israel and Lebanon, French co-producer MK2 ankled the project after getting cold feet about its tough subject matter and producer Uri Sabag died midway through production last September.

Maoz has spent much of the last few months locked away in an editing room trying to complete his passion project.

Part of the reason for the lengthy post-production was the director’s desire not to shy away from the horrors of modern urban warfare.

It took repeated pleas from Israeli Film Fund topper Katriel Schory — a key funder of the pic who developed a close relationship with the director based on his own experiences fighting in the 1973 Yom Kippur War — that convinced Maoz to make “Lebanon” more palatable for auds.

With Gallic sales agent Celluloid Dreams now handling international sales, Maoz is finally ready to share his experiences with the world.

“For me, there was a need to make and complete this film. Maybe it was the best treatment I could have,” Maoz said. “I wanted everyone to see the war as it was, as naked and honest as possible. I felt a need to explain the war without the usual cliches. I was searching for forgiveness from myself but at the same time I’m not trying to escape from the responsibility. In the end, it was my finger on the trigger.”

“Lebanon” once again finds an Israeli director — after Ari Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir” and Joseph Cedar’s “Beaufort” — analyzing the invasion of Lebanon.

The film, which follows 24 hours in the life of a platoon of Israeli soldiers at the outset of the 1982 invasion, is already provoking debate in Israel even though it has only been seen by its cast and crew and a few local film execs.

“When your soul is bleeding, there is no cure for it,” said Maoz. “Israel is full of people who have learned to live with this feeling and repress it.”

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