Heritages: A Review

Heritages movie poster

Here is a movie that will make you feel both happiness and sadness as though they’re two sides of the same 500 LL coin. Heritages is the story of Philppe Aractingi and his Franco-Lebanese family as they trace back their own family history and compare, contrast it with the history of Lebanon and the whole region.

As he flips through his passport, he realizes just how often he fled Lebanon, a country, it seems, which could never tire from giving him reasons to leave. He has left Lebanon for France 3 times, each new time with a sense of deja-vu and a myriad of confusing feelings. His last exodus was during the 2006 war, only this time accompanied by his family.

Scene from “Heritages” – Aractingi’s family recreating an old family photo

The more he remembers, the more he finds unsettling similarities between his own journey and that of his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. From Turkey to Syria to Lebanon to France, the Aractingi family story is one of constant traveling with no end in sight. Symbolic encounters define Aractingi’s quest for meaning and anecdotes and we see him obsessed with remembering, remembering the distant as well as recent past out of an un-tamable desire to preserve what is trying so hard to be forgotten.

He has built a comfortable life in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, a rather upper class suburb of Paris, with his French wife Diane, herself partly of Lebanese descent, their two sons, Luc and Matthieu, and their daughter, Eve. But despite that comfortable life, he cannot shake that feeling of restlessness, and shortly after leaving in 2006, he returns to shoot ‘Under the Bombs‘, eventually joined by his family in 2010.

Aractingi's mother
Aractingi’s mother

Here’s what you need to know about this movie. It won’t tell you anything you don’t already know about Lebanon. It doesn’t even try to. But it will re-frame your present confusion and make some sense out of it. After all, searching for meaning in the midst of confusion is a vital need we all have if we wish to leave our cycle of depression.

I saw Nadia Tueni and Mai Ghoussoub throughout the movie, silently nodding their heads, approving of every word coming out of Aractingi’s mouth. It only seemed fitting that Tueni would be quoted towards the end of the movie as saying: J’appartiens a un pays qui chaque jour se suicide tandis qu’on l’assassine. I belong to a country that commits suicide every day while it is being assassinated. Powerful sentence, no?

This is a movie like no other. You will see the sadness of Maroun Baghdadi‘s “The Most Beautiful of all Mothers”, the broken innocence of Ziad Doueiry’s “West Beirut”, the outrage of Eliane Raheb’s “Sleepless Nights” and the unquenchable belief in hope of Joana Hadjithomas’ and Khalil Joreige’s “The Lebanese Rocket Society” all.