Lebanon at the DIFF: Watch Submarine!

There is Hala. A raw kind of beauty. A heroin desperately trying to caulk and stop the cracks in her apartment, in her sentimental life, and possibly, those tearing the Lebanese society apart.

There is a bewitching, sensuous tango playing, as masks are put on and turn characters into ghosts in the midst of the garbage crisis. Masks that may not just be there to help you tame a pungent smell.

And there is Submarine, a pub, witnessing the presages of the residents’ exile. Its aches too.

That is the setting. A tormented, rough, beautiful setting that will take you away from our Dubai bubble and remind you of the complex region we live in and its open wounds.

That is the setting. One that I believe will allow you to revisit and question the essence of your own expatriation.


Submarine is a short movie written by Mounia Akl and produced par Cyril Aris and Jinane Chaaya. It will be presented at the Dubai International Film Festival (December, 11 and December, 13) as part of a series of exciting short movies, the Short Muhr Package 03.
Following its official selection for the Cannes Festival, Submarine has been presented in Italy, Turkey, New York, and the movie just won a prize in Denver.
I strongly encourage you to go and watch it.
To book your tickets or read some more, click here.


I first watched Submarine in Arabic, without subtitles. And therefore truly enjoyed the precious sensuality that pervades the movie, along with the terse dialogues! Below are some of the questions I have asked talented Mounia Akl, Submarine’s film director, to answer. These are bits and pieces translated from the more thorough article I wrote and published in DubaiMadame, which I invite you to read if you happen to speak the language.


What motivated you to bring Submarine to the DIFF? 

I am honored Submarine has been selected for the DIFF. It will be the film’s preview in the Middle East and it brings me joy to finally show it in its nurturing environment. I have been waiting for this since the moment I wrote the script. Dubai is clearly a hub in the region for our industry and the DIFF is a beautiful opportunity for us directors and artists to share our work and experiences.

So far the non-Lebanese audiences I have met have strongly identified with Hala, my main character, and with the conflict I am exploring in the movie. This has been extremely gratifying because the issues I am trying to raise go far beyond a garbage crisis, and Lebanon itself.

In the movie, while everybody is leaving, your main character Hala decides to go against the flow of exile. Do you feel in tune with this act of resistance? 

Hala is a mix of the character on paper, Yumna Marwan -the actress- and myself. She embodies a state of collective denial, the refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of a crisis.

I have known and felt this fear of exile, of having to leave, on a number of levels, first hand and personal, as well as political. I have also experienced the loss of faith, the fear of having to accept that some struggles were over, and we had lost them. I have been frustrated politically. But unlike Hala, I have never reached a point of no return. I have never truly given up.

The music adds an exquisite touch to the laconic dialogues in your movie. How did you choose Tango El Amal?

I felt like the music in the movie had to translate into sounds Hala’s inner world, her effort to bring people together, and her fear of having to move on and lose the people she loved..

Composer Paul Tyan and I chose Tango El Amal (Nour El Hoda), a cult song to us. We wanted to revisit it and have it become a bridge between past and present, between the many generations that were regulars of Submarine, and somehow a moment between memory and denial.

This song is meant to contrast with the loudspeakers inviting residents to proceed to the evacuation. It is meant to take us all back to lighter, more gentle, sensual times.


Mounia Akl is a young Libanese film director who first studied architecture in Beirut and then went on to spend four years at Columbia University in New York to focus on filmscreening and directing. She believes architects and filmakers share a desire to stage life, and this is how she has navigated in between both worlds before dedicating herself to  writing 4 short movies and 2 full-length feature films.

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