There are many different stories in Memory Box. Like Russian dolls, the film tells the story of a country, Lebanon, and its war, but also that of a woman who got lost along the way and a teenager trying to understand her mother. And through its ambitious artistic device, the film also tells the story of photography and questions what war does to images, and more particularly to images in film. Because the couple of Franco-Lebanese artists and filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, who lived through this civil war during their adolescence in the 1980s, have accumulated impressive raw material to bear witness to it, forgotten in boxes for three decades. So everything started from this famous box, filled with newspapers, photos , drawings and audio recordings, vestige of the correspondence between Joana and her best friend expatriated in France to flee the war. The two women kept everything and met by chance one evening in 2013. Nothing had changed, everything was intact, and that’s how Joana decided to bring their story to the screen, although at first chilly at the idea of her diaries being read by a whole team of scriptwriters, set designers and editors. combined their memories to give life to these diaries as well as to the tens of thousands of photos of Khalil and thus to put together the fragments of their little story to tell the big one. “A documentary would have been too easy because there was crazy material. We had to sift it through a fictional sieve so that all the elements, love, return, exile, could find their place. We did not want to tell a truth because these are wars that have not had shared histories”, says Joana. On the screen, therefore, it is Maia and her daughter, Alex, who receive a mysterious package from Beirut on Christmas Eve, in a Quebec paralyzed by a snowstorm. “We wanted a country far away, with a lot of Lebanese immigration and the contrast of the snow. We also wanted there to be a storm that would give Alex time to immerse himself in his mother’s story.” Because Maia refuses to face this past but Alex will dive into it in secret. She discovers there, between fantasy and reality, her mother’s tumultuous and passionate adolescence in the 1980s and well-kept secrets. The reconstruction of this famous memory box is the sinews of war and the fruit of laborious DIY. of several months. The notebooks have been recreated with a few fictional additions and the cassettes re-recorded by the actors to transcribe adolescent passion as closely as possible: parental disputes, passionate love affairs, lists of everyday life or mood curves are thus mixed with songs and recordings interrupted by the bombings. If the main plot of the story is reconstructed thanks to Joana’s diaries, this is only the first stage in the making of the film. Because it is the photos of Khalil, already a photographer in his adolescence, which are the essential support of their story. He, for his part, reworked more than 10,000 snapshots from the time, reproduced identically with the actors of the film, photographed on a green screen then re-embedded in the original Beirut. “The decor team had a lot of fun. There are so many details. There was also something jubilant in the tactile and physical work of it all.” This “found footage” device, especially favored by cinema fantasy and horror, is pushed to its climax here and its different mediums – Polaroid, Photobooth, collages, recordings with grain, etc. – are real little madeleines of the 1980s. They tell the story of the war but also, and above all, a teenager who wants to live, dream and have fun. “We wanted to deconstruct war. Because we always imagine people who experience war in an extremely traumatic way. It is, but we who have lived through 15 years of war, there were also times when we had to live.” All this material is put into abyss in the story of Alex, Maia’s daughter, who reconstructs her own imagination by photographing maternal memories with her iPhone. The support, the grain and the techniques evolve and it is therefore also a whole section of the history of photography that passes before our eyes. “We simply start from an observation and we don’t want to be moralizing. Me, I had 60,000 archive photos. My daughter on Snapchat takes 50,000 photos in 6 months. But we don’t say to ourselves ‘it was better before’, we are not nostalgic. On the contrary, what we wanted is for Alex to take possession of these images and bring them to life with today’s tools according to her fantasy”, specifies Khalil. At the time of the editing of the film, the country experienced a new tragedy, that of the double explosion of the port of Beirut. The couple was then in Lebanon. “Joana survived by a miracle but we lost everything, our apartment, our studio, our archives”. Recording their adolescent memories on film to keep an immutable trace of them was therefore no longer a luxury but a necessity. was filmed at the port where this tragic explosion will take place. Memory Box recounts a war that took place in the 1980s, but the film also resonates in a strange way with the current situation in Lebanon. “We worked on the idea of the sun at the end to signify that it is a cycle of destruction, disasters then regeneration. We are now waiting for the light. At the end, there is a reunion, we have to can cling to something because you don’t have the luxury of despair”, concludes Joana.