Young Critics: The Lebanese Rocket Society

lebanese rocketIn the early 1960s, with the space race in full swing, the tiny country of Lebanon decided to get in on the act; the faculty and students of Haigazian University began building and testing a series of rockets.This is the subject of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s charming documentary; which charts the genesis and life of the Lebanese rocket program.

The film’s personal approach (with both filmmakers appearing on screen) is in stark contrast to recent documentaries in the vein of Senna or The Imposter, in which events were left entirely to the narration of those involved – and were probably better for it. Whilst the film does come across like a personal project, the early stages can feel slightly more like a television documentary than a feature. I must say, however, that this gripe is not applicable to the film’s final portions; where the filmmakers become the subjects themselves, with their own initiative to honour their countrymen’s exploits.

At their heart, documentaries rise and fall on the strength of their subject matter, and The Lebanese Rocket Society excels in this area; its tale disarmingly charming. The film also manages to raise questions on the line between scientific pursuit and its practical (a.k.a military) applications.

If the point of documentaries is to inform the viewer of something they did not already know, and entertain them in the process, The Lebanese Rocket Society succeeds wonderfully. The only thing it lacks, perhaps, is that truly cinematic feel.

– Will Firth