Abu Dhabi: Here Comes the Rain explores the kidnappings that took place during the Lebanese Civil war, in a 100-minute screening about a 50-year-old man, Ramez, who returns to his family after being abducted for 20 years.
The film was short-listed, along with 10 others, to receive support from the Sanad film fund – an initiative recently launched by the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Adff) to finance and support filmmakers across the Arab world.
After 20 years of torture, Ramez (Hassan Mrad) returns to his wife Marie (Julia Kassar), and his two children Nadia and Ellie, who were aged five and three when he was kidnapped in the 80’s.
His sudden return confuses his family and he himself is portrayed as un-stable. He is also asthmatic and troubled by another woman, Zainab (Carmen Lebbos) who he struggles to express himself with, every time they meet.
Zainab’s husband, Khalil, was abducted 20 years ago, which encourages a profound friendship to blossom between the two characters.
Ramez is hospitalised due to an asthma attack towards the end of the film. In hospital, his children and wife (Zainab) visit him.
At that point, Ramez finally confesses to Zainab that he was in the same cell as her husband. “Khalil got sick and died in jail. I wanted to tell you so many times, but I never knew how to break it to you,” he tells her after removing his breathing-mask.
Here Comes the Rain is producer Bahij Hojeij’s second feature film, and is in line with the work he started in Kidnapped in 1998 – a documentary about the Lebanese civil war. However, Rain, tackles a different aspect of the civil war, focusing on the theme of returning rather than disappearing.
Hojeij selected each of the actors in accordance to the characters that he felt best suited them. “I think that 70 to 80 per cent of the time, directors and producers select actors that they are confident can fit the character. I knew that Ramez and Zainab would act their roles well. Both characters were isolationists, and imprisoned in their own different ways. The difference is that he’s still living in the past, and she’s looking for her past, and destiny finally brings them together and unravels the truth.”
The second screening of Here Comes the Rain will be on Friday October 22 at the Marina Mall 8 in Abu Dhabi.
Bahij Hojeij shoots black and white footage of a true story about Nayfeh Najjar, a Lebanese mother who writes letters that were published in Al Safeer newspaper in Lebanon in 1984, about her abducted son. In the meantime, the producer tries to send out a message of love and hope, through what he called “hand-picked actors”. However, the blending of the two very different themes led to confusion at times.
There were a lot of intermingled scenes. Actor Hassan Mrad (Ramez) appears as a character obsessed with bags through-out the course of the film. When asked why the producer emphasised this, he struggled to answer. Instead, the actor himself (who was present during and after the film screening) answered on his behalf. “The bag searching can be compared to a baby holding onto something, or in search of his freedom,” said the actor. I didn’t quite get that answer, nor did I find it necessary to add “obsessive bag scenes” to a politically driven drama about the Lebanese Civil War.