Memory Box

Director Joana Hadjithomas,Khalil Joreige / 2021 / Canada,France,Lebanon,Qatar

The arrival of a mysterious package reopens old wounds and breaks down walls of intergenerational silence in this innovative drama about mothers and daughters, history and time.

Maia lives in Montreal with her mother and teenage daughter, Alex. A reminder of Maia’s past arrives on Christmas Eve in the form of a box filled with notebooks, tapes, photos and other objects from her adolescence. Maia doesn’t want to remember, and her mother tells Alex to let sleeping dogs lie, but Alex can’t quell her curiosity. Intrigued about her mother’s life in Beirut during the civil war, she looks inside – unleashing long-buried secrets.

The first feature in nine years from Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (A Perfect Day, MIFF 2006), and the first Lebanese film to screen in competition at the Berlinale in four decades, Memory Box builds on the award-winning duo’s eclectic, experimental style. Here, they make use of their own journals, tapes and wartime photographs to build an intergenerational story about secrets, trauma and memory. Maia – played as a young woman by Manal Issa (Nocturama, MIFF 2017) – literally comes to life in the images Alex sneaks a peek at, first as flipbooks then in extended flashbacks that vibrantly recreate a city under siege yet bursting with life.

“An affecting portrait of reconciliation and an exploration of how one generation’s trauma can be passed on to the next generation … Introspective, affecting, and visually inventive.” – Film Inquiry

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