The lives of three women will come together when a box arrives at the Canadian home of a family of Lebanese origin, sent by a mysterious person who has since died. Maia is a single mother who lives in Montreal with her teenage daughter Alex and her mother, and on Christmas Eve a package with notebooks, tapes and photos that she sent from Beirut to her best friend in France during the eighties will arrive at their home address. Maia was Alexa’s age at the time and she doesn’t want to open the box and remember the old days, but her daughter will secretly start exploring that box of memories, memories of another world and some other times that her mother never talked about and actually get to know her mother. .
The Lebanese duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige shot a stylistically incredibly interesting drama that premiered in the main program of the festival in Berlin. Along with the contents of the box, Alex will thus try to reconstruct his mother’s life in Beirut in the early eighties before and during the civil war there. It is a masterfully and originally designed, directed and edited film, because when Alex dives into her mother’s past made up of intimate letters and diary entries, audio tapes with messages to a friend and photographs, all of this will begin to merge in her head into something between reality and fantasy. What Maia experienced and felt then will now take on a different dimension in Alexa’s eyes, and a world she didn’t even know existed will open before her, and she will begin to understand how and why her mother grew into the person she is now. .
At the same time, with “Memory Box” we get a great insight into the life of Lebanon on the eve of the civil war that practically lasted from 1975 to 1990 and during which a free, modern and fairly secular society experienced a complete disaster from which it is still recovering today. Here, the author duo also plays nicely with film techniques and photography, and the events of almost 40 years ago were filmed in a retro style, while the photos were turned into mini-animations. The film is about the trauma experienced by three generations of one family, each in its own way. While Maia’s mother, now an old woman, in the moments when they had to flee from her country, was a grown woman who lost first her son, then her father, Maia was formed as a person.
And suddenly she had to leave everything she knew until then, flee to another world, while Alexa’s trauma is that she doesn’t really know anything about her family’s past, but she is aware that a heavy and painful tragedy is hidden there. Nevertheless, it is the film that in the end offers a lot of optimism, a moving, emotional and poignant drama, and although the subject it deals with is painful, the film is full of nostalgia. And memories of the good old pre-digital times when memories were real, tangible like diaries, photos or tapes and could last. And not today, when we take thousands of photos of everything and anything, and later we can’t even find our way in the sea of nonsense with which we have filled the memory of our smartphone.