Taste of Cement (Ta'm Al Ismint)
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The Lebanese Civil War ended nearly a generation ago, but it remains far from forgotten, stamped in the memories of those who lived through it and those who have heard their tales, and perhaps indelibly inscribed on the city of Beirut, which to this day is repairing its destruction, even as it slowly heals its emotional scars. In one of the universe’s twists of irony, many of the labourers rebuilding and renewing the city are Syrian; as they work to help Beirut reach the sky, their own villages, towns and cities are being razed, and their people dig frantically through rubble to find casualties they hope are still alive.
Laid over this is the prejudice to which these Syrian workers are subjected – they sleep underground among a building’s foundations and face a curfew of 7:00pm; they are effectively disallowed from participating in the society they are helping to renew. With compelling camerawork and intimate stories from labourers, director Ziad Kalthoum captures the mind-numbing routine of climbing ever higher to pour concrete, only to return to the bowels of the Earth when the day is done. But more than this, and harsher, ‘Taste of Cement’ obliquely asks painfully melancholy questions: Who will rebuild Syria? And when?