Formalist filmmaking that has garnered several awards in the festival circuit, Taste of Cement directed by Ziad Kalthoum, is an unavoidable masterpiece. The visuals and sounds play an equally important role in the documentary. This documentary projects the plight of the Syrian migrants in Lebanon, who have little choice but to make a living by working on construction sites. The documentary demonstrates brilliantly the irony of the role of cement in their lives, where in one hand they are building a multi-story tower overlooking the Mediterranean sea while back home the only remnants of their homes are just cement and rubble. The vicious circle of structures being erected in one place and being demolished is the crux of this film and their lives disrupted by years of destruction as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Not much happens throughout the film. The director has avoided interviews of the characters in this movie but mastered his craft of piecing together the images and finds harmony between sound design and the background scores. There are hardly any dialogues except for the occasional voiceover by an unnamed worker describing the memories of his father coming back home to Syria decades before from Beirut, smelling of cement. His rough hands told him stories of a life that would eventually cast upon himself in years to come. A new generation of Syrian men embarks upon this journey to build the future while their own lives crumble beneath their feet back home. 

Cement is everywhere. In the air of construction in Beirut and in the howls of fear in Syria. The shocking images of rescuers trying their best to scoop out rubble to get to people who may be buried underneath are haunting. This contrasts with the silence of the Syrian construction workers quietly retiring to their living quarters to the bottom of the poorly lit tower by 7 pm while succumbing in silence to the shrieking images they watch on their mobile phones.

This film is ultimately a film on war and refugees who struggle for their lives in a world that has snatched their freedom to live.


Photo ©Basis Berlin on IMDB


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