Martyr (18)

Martyr (18)

Director: Mazen Khaled

Runtime: 84 minutes. Arabic Subtitles.

Cast: Carol Abboud, Hadi Bou Ayash, Moustafa Fahs

Synopsis: For Hassane, a young man from an impoverished neighbourhood, life has stopped making sense. All he has left is a close group of friends, brought together by a shared sense of marginalization. In an effort to shake off the pressures of an increasingly desperate family situation, Hassane decides to lose himself in the azure waters of his favourite swimming spot on Beirut’s rocky shore. However, despite innocent intentions, Hassane’s actions result in a tsunami of grief and powerlessness that engulfs his friends, family and the community around him, changing their lives forever.


The second feature from Mazen Khaled [A Petty Bourgeois Dream (2016)] is visually ravishing and finds a young Lebanese man, Hassane (Hamza Mekdad) deciding to escape the limited choices his life has to offer. Hassane has grown up in an impoverished neighbourhood in Beirut where his future appears to hold little more than a series of dull, badly paid jobs. He lives with his parents, who despair when he returns home with the news that he has once again been fired. His one consolation is the visits to a local beach with his childhood friends and it is on one of these trips that Hassane makes a radical decision – to lose himself in the sea that has brought him his only sense of joy. Instead of routinely capturing the impact of the tragedy, Khaled’s film opts for a more expressive, poetic approach, one which produces moments of visual beauty and asks more philosophical questions about the way we choose to live our lives.

Heralding an exciting new Lebanese auteur, Martyr is an elegiac farewell to the beauty and sensuality of life, youth, friendship, and love.

The film boasts excellent ensemble playing, and atmospheric music from Zeid Hamdan and Vladimir Kurumilian. Stunning cinematography from Talal Khoury and Rachel Noja captures the beauty of Beirut’s Corniche – the waterside promenade with its rocky shore below – from where the young men make dangerous jumps into the Mediterranean.

Hassane’s tragic death at the seaside causes his friends to grapple with loss and to partake in his community’s rites and ceremonies, exposing the city’s schisms and society’s fault lines that reflect so many of the problems faced by present-day Lebanese youth (or Arab youth) in general and how these interact with the mores and concerns of an older generation.


Images courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures