Nadine Labaki stars in Oualid Mouaness’s debut film '1982'

The film tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who is trying to drum up the courage to tell his classmate that he loves her. Before he can do so, an air Israeli strike hits Beirut

A behind the scenes shot with Oscar-nominated director Nadine Labaki, right, who stars in Oualid Mouaness's debut feature '1982'. Abbout Productions
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Set in the mountains of Lebanon at the start of the Israeli invasion, 1982 is the debut feature by director Oualid Mouaness, starring Nadine Labaki, whose 2018 film Capernaum was nominated for an Oscar.

But when The National caught up with Mouaness, whose film is in post-production, he acknowledged the work of the whole cast. "The film is a collective of all these actors and yes it stars Nadine Labaki, but there are all these kids who are driving the film," he said. 

1982 focuses on Wissam, 11, a boy who has a crush on his classmate Joanna. But before he can muster up the courage to tell her how he feels, and with his class is in the midst of their final exams, the air invasions on Beirut begin and the pupils are sent home. Could there be a bit of young Mouaness in the story?

A still from Oualid Mouaness's debut feature film '1982'. Abbout Productions
A still from Oualid Mouaness's debut feature film '1982'. Abbout Productions

"It's completely autobiographical. It is actually based on my last day of school in Lebanon, in 1982, before we had to leave the country," he said.

"The film in its entirety takes place in one location, in the school, during the course of one day, and that school is in the mountains in Lebanon."

While Mouaness has previously directed two shorts, including The Rifle, the Jackal, the Wolf and the Boy, which was shortlisted for an Oscar in 2017, he is better known as a documentary, features and music video producer. His credits include a 2008 documentary about Paris Hilton directed by Adria Petty, as well as videos for Rihanna, Katy Perry and David Bowie.

Mouaness grew up in Lebanon and Liberia, received his undergraduate degree from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, acquired his Master of Fine Arts in writing and directing from Florida State University, and is a Sundance Screenwriting Fellow. He now lives and works in Los Angeles.

1982 marks his first foray into feature films and took eight years to make, while he also worked on other projects. But how does a first-time feature director recruit a high-profile actress such as Labaki? "I've known Nadine for a while," Mouaness said. "I talked to her about this way back in 2013. She read the script and liked it a lot." 

Once Mouaness was ready to begin filming, he contacted Labaki and "asked if she still wanted to do it, and she said 'absolutely.'" Labaki shot her scenes during breaks from editing Capernaum.

When asked where the premiere will take place, Mouaness said he was not short of options. "I have the tough, but privileged choice of several festivals," he said.

Depending on how long it takes to make the finishing touches to 1982, the premiere will most likely be held at a film festival such as Venice, Toronto or Sundance. "I can't wait to share it with the world," Mouaness said.

More importantly perhaps, the director said the film "really posits Lebanese actors in a way they have not seen themselves before".

He said he was excited for his cast to see themselves on screen. "Some of them have only two scenes, but they come in and move you," he said.

1982 is written by Mouaness and co-produced by his company Tricycle Logic and Georges Schoucair's Beirut-based Abbout Productions.