Sunday, October 10, 2010

Iranian-Lebanese film recounts suffering in war with Israel

BEIRUT — A Lebanese-Iranian film about two Hezbollah fighters and their women during the 2006 war with Israel is one of the biggest ever made in the country, one of its producers said on Thursday.

"'South of Heaven' is one of the biggest movies ever filmed in Lebanon," the executive producer from Lebanon's Rihanna Group, Ali Abu Zaid, told AFP.

The story is set in the border village of Aita Shaab, from which Hezbollah fighters crossed into Israel and captured two soldiers in a deadly raid in 2006.

The attack provoked a devastating month-long Israeli offensive against Hezbollah strongholds in south Lebanon and Beirut's southern suburb in which 1,200 Lebanese and more than 160 Israelis were killed.

"South of Heaven" is a story of a village whose people are prepared to sacrifice even their families to protect their land.

Yussef and Nisrine were to be married on the day the war breaks out, and Yussef leaves to fight.

Nisrine, a nurse, stays behind to tend the wounded. She finds Hanan, a woman about to give birth whose husband has also gone off to war, and she has taken refuge in a cave from the bombing.

The film could not be shot in Aita Shaab because of the instability of the border area.

Instead, a replica of the village was constructed in Insariye, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of the border.

"Substantial resources" were invested in the shooting, but Abu Zaid declined to disclose the cost.

"It is not a political film but a human story that shows the horrors of war," said Syrian actress Kinda Alloush, who plays Nisrine.

But Hanan al-Turk, an Egyptian actress who quit as the character of the same name, described the work as "a Shiite and Iranian propaganda tool."

Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim party and is backed by Iran.

The film is directed by Jamal Shorje, an Iranian known for his productions devoted to the Iran-Iraq war. It is financed by Rihanna and the Iranian institute Fadak, which aims to spread "Islamic culture," according to its website.

It is due to be released next year.

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