Lebanese docu helmer Maher Abi Samra uses film to process his own and his country’s past in”We Were Communists,” a highly personal melding of the intellectual and the emotional. Recently returned to Lebanon after 15 years in France, Samra reconnects with three comrades to reflect on their involvement with communism and the party’s distinctive place within Lebanon’s internecine landscape. Less a political tract than a melancholy journey to the land of lost ideals, Samra’s exploration of old bonds is too specialized for most auds, though regional fests and Arab diaspora events will benefit.

The 2006 Israeli invasion reawakened memories of the 1982 war, when Samra and colleagues first became active party members. At the time, the communists were the sole political organization fighting internal sectarianism as well as outside forces, but since then, Hezbollah has monopolized political resistance, playing on domestic strife to further divide Shiites and Sunnis. Samra’s party involvement achieved its apogee during 1987’s Beirut Arab U. battle, which he and his colleagues verbally re-evoke in a nicely handled scene set in an empty room. Mediocre digital quality and murky lighting don’t help the largely unadorned filmmaking.

We Were Communists

Lebanon-France-United Arab Emirates

  • Production: An Orjouane Prods., Les Films d'Ici production. Produced by Sabine Sidawi, Jinane Dagher. Executive producer, Dagher. Co-producer, Serge Lalou. Directed, written by Maher Abi Samra.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-DigiBeta), Claire Mathon; editors, Ruben Korenfeld, Carine Doumit; music, Firkat el Wilaya. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 9, 2010. Running time: 85 MIN.
  • With: Narrator: Maher Abi Samra. (Arabic dialogue)
  • Music By: