A young woman, Hala, decides to remain home during Lebanon’s 2015 garbage crisis in short film Submarine from writer/director Mounia Akl.
This short film by Mounia Akl, recounts the evacuation of Lebanon during the 2015 garbage crisis. The horrors and devastation revealed through the film bring light to an overwhelming story which was underpublicized by the media. Even with the reality of having to flee one’s home, our protagonist seems unfazed yet rebellious.
The film cleverly entices its audience within the first couple seconds by showing us an interview with a native of the country. Whether the interview is real or staged for the film we do not know, but it does its purpose, which is to capture our attention. The man passionately expresses his disdain for his country’s politicians, saying that they tricked their people and then ran off “to live like kings.” It is in these first few moments of the film that we discover what a severe injustice has happened in Lebanon. This man comes into play to be one of the many foils to our main protagonist, Hala.
Though there is real tragedy within the bones of this film, the crisis is not what intrigues us. Hala, a young girl who seems to have no family or friends except for the man down the road who owns a shop, has no desire to leave. Even as garbage crashes through her window and splatters across her apartment, she is more enthusiastic about fixing her window than leaving. This is first brought to our attention in the beginning of the film when she is fast asleep on the couch in her underwear. While everyone in the town is packing to leave because of how scared they are, she could care less and lounges about.
Her attitude towards the whole situation has such indifference that she incites rage in those around her. Those around her think she’s crazy, that she doesn’t understand the severity of the issue, but the truth is, she does. She has her own reasons for staying, even though she understands she will be alone in a country that is drowning in its own garbage. So what’s the reason?
At first I wasn’t sure what her problem was. What’s happening in her head isn’t easily spelled out for us to read left to right. It is placed in the tiny details of the film that we may overlook because we’re too busy looking at the big picture. She wakes up and fixes a picture on the desk, even goes as far as to clean the crumbs off from around it. She doesn’t take the time to pack her things but has time to find a new window. The man from the store says she’s just like her father. What do these all have in common? Family. She wishes to stay from her family. Though they may not be living, she wishes to cherish their items and their home, and refuses to leave. So while we’re all looking at the big picture we’re missing the bigger picture.
The garbage has taken over their country, taken over their lives. Now as a last resort they flee and will become refugees in a stranger’s country. If Hala leaves she will be leaving behind everything that had meaning to her, her pictures, her family house. She’s willing to live in garbage rather than live without those things. While most of us are astonished at the conditions and amount of garbage, we forget to see what is happening on a personal level.