To Westerners, Beirut immediately brings to mind stereotypical images of shattered walls, veils and Kalashnikov rifles. But this film depicts a much more varied Lebanon, seen through the eyes of two young, modern, Lebanese women.
Roula Mouawad is a Christian journalist. El-Roz is a Muslim photographer and artist. One has just divorced, the other has just married. What they have in common, is that neither of them resembles the prevailing image of the Middle Eastern woman. They are modern, surprisingly liberated, wear tight designer jeans and Gucci sunglasses and they move as confidently on the shattered streets of Beirut as they do through the city’s extensive, pulsating nightlife.
Through these two young women, Beautiful Beirut draws a different portrait of Lebanon and Beirut than those usually presented in news stories about fighting, civil war and the activities of the Hizbollah movement. Beautiful Beirut depicts a country and a city that, despite being marked by years of civil unrest and the recent war with Israel, also represents a modern and complex melting pot of Western and Middle Eastern, modernity and traditionalism, with 18 different religious persuasions, a vibrant cultural scene, technological know-how and plenty of fashion stores and expensive cars.
Still there are obvious differences between the lives of most Western women and that of the two Lebanese women. Naila and Roula may be well educated, self-assured and confident with regard to fashion and accessories – but they are also marked by a society that has always been a pawn in the political or religious games played by other nations. Not least in the war in 2006 where 1,200 Lebanese were killed and 4,000 were wounded, the majority of which were civilians.