Written and directed by Ely Dagher, Waves ’98 is making a big splash on the festival circuit. This animated film, which won the short film Palme D’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of one teenager’s decision to take charge of and uproot his life after years of living in a continuous loop of depression and monotony in post-war Beirut.
Like a hellish Groundhog’s Day, Omar wakes up to his parent’s financial stress, depressing newscasts, and isolation daily. A Kate Moss x Supreme poster hangs on his bedroom wall next to a map of Beirut, a clear indication that he has bigger and better plans for his future. He passes the time staring at the city skyline, until one afternoon he witnesses a beam of light in the city center. Intrigued, he leaves the life as he knew it and, without looking back, sets out to find the source of the light and discover what else the world has in store for him.
Running just shy of 15 minutes, Waves ’98 is not a typical animated film; the majority of the story is illustrated with hand drawn sketches, but most of the landscapes are actual shots of a Beirut Cityscape. When Omar watches the news on TV, the reporter is not animated, rather, she is a grainy, but real, woman reporting the news from the 90s. This combination of mediums creates an undeniable sense wonderment for the viewer and is a fantastic example of the beauty of video art.
Very little dialogue is spoken in Waves ’98, but the melodic journey is so distinct that one could follow along with the story even with closed eyes. The film feels very personal to director Ely Dagher, one has to assume this was a cathartic release for him to express his love/hate relationship with specific personal attachments. For those looking for a mysterious, darkly haunting, but etherial film, Waves ’98 is an inspirational watch.