Asfouri: a building at war

Asfouri tells the story of an old Beirut apartment building through the lens of civil war and reconstruction. It is one of the few Lebanese films to touch upon architectural preservation and the zeal for “development” in the post-war period.

Having survived the chaos of the civil war, the building and its inhabitants are confronted with the equally powerful forces of capitalism when surveyors from a firm called “Statico” come snooping around. Lebanese audiences will understand this to be a not-so-subtle reference to Solidere, the multibillion dollar firm established by Lebanon’s former prime minister, which bulldozed much of the old city center in favor of luxury developments.

Like many Lebanese films, Asfouri grapples with acting and scriptwriting issues. But what it lacks in storytelling is balanced by its social commentary, which is a welcome departure from the often superficial productions that are peddled as movie and television content in this country.

The 1990s “reconstruction” period forms the foundation upon which many of the social and economic ailments of contemporary Lebanon are built. Yet the period is woefully under discussed. Conversations about this time, informed by writing and films, will be essential to any type of reconciliation and supporting movies like Asfouri may help hasten their development.

Asfouri will not be playing for much longer so go see it as soon as you can. Here are the showtimes.