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Even in a ‘Valley of Exile,’ Life’s Drama Remains


Game Theory Films

As the Syrian civil war wages on, sisters Rima (Maria Hassan) and Nour (Hala Hosni) seek shelter in a refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Rima, in the final stages of her pregnancy, finds comfort in the adopted home of two other women, while Nour wishes to return to Syria to find their brother. Valley of Exile offers an alternative insight into the effects of war – one that reminds us how life finds a way to move forward in spite of our surroundings.


Director Anna Fahr presents a quiet story amidst the loud cries of violence and political decree. The characters in the film face problems many of us around the world encounter, and they’re treated in a similar down-to-earth way. However, where Valley of Exile becomes a powerful piece of work, is in the subtle reminders and overarching tension that the reason Rima and Nour, and others, find themselves in their position is displacement caused by war.


The two sisters represent the impossible decision many before them (and unfortunately many after) have had to reconcile. Does one accept their circumstances and make the best of a bad hand? Or does one continue to search and fight? Rima’s later-term pregnancy creates an interesting texture to the film whereby her decisions require consideration beyond herself; although Nour’s decision factors another life as well. 


Valley of Exile gently explores the purity in both Rima and Nour’s decision-making as both see the situation with clarity and precision and yet, land on the other side of the equation. The seasoned filmmaker she is, Fahr offers no judgment on her characters and no ultimate conclusion as to what is right or wrong. Quite simply, the two young women are finding the best course of action for themselves.


There’s a great humanity to Valley of Exile that Hassan and Hosni display with force and delicacy. Both of their performances punctuate the urgency in their lives and also the tedium that exists no matter the situation. 


Fahr’s film, which she also wrote, falls victim to unnecessary melodrama at times, especially given the focal subject matter of the film, excessive drama need not exist. But it’s a minor transgression in a film that intrinsically understands the disarming nature of wartime. Past the roadblocks, beneath the rubble and beyond the gun fire are people trying to make it from one day to the next. 

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