Heading into the theatre packed with intrigued faces, I overheard someone: "Is this one of those spoof films? Or is there really a society like that?" I must admit when I first heard of the title I was kind of baffled too, is this for real? Was there some sort of rocket society in Lebanon that we hadn't heard of? If yes, then this was huge, so huge it pegs the question, how can something so significant not be so significant in the history of accomplishments for the Arab world? Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige direct this 93 minute documentary to give us the answers we were all eager to find out.
I have to say I am completely speechless, I enjoyed every minute of this very informative piece of art. There were so many things I really had no idea about (I blame my history teacher) but in all fairness, we were all taught about the big battles and the world wars and never really went into details about the significance of events that happened in the neighbouring countries. Of course, we found out a lot of things through reading, family discussions and from people that experienced all sorts of events in the past decades.
This is the story of an Armenian university, where Doctor Manoug Manougian led a group of eager students to experiment with science and technology and eventually manage to launch a rocket that was supposed to lead to a bigger space society and even more accomplishments. The most amazing thing to see are these university students and their teacher as they practically make everything from scratch; this all happens between the years 1960-1966. So for those golden years, watching this footage and hearing those people speak felt extremely inspiring. This led at that time to a phenomenon, every other person in Lebanon wanted to get in on this society and build their own rocket, and it was truly incredible to see.
Don't forget, this is quite a long documentary and the directors try their best to show us as much history as possible, make us feel like we were right there living within those endless possibilities. All the ooh and aahs from the theatre only added to the whole experience, no one had any idea that these things happened in those six years. The documentary shifts focus slightly to explain the context of those times in the region and the unfortunate wars that Lebanon and all surrounding countries faced, deeming it impossible to continue that promising era.
I will not tell you what you already know, all those wars and instabilities that continue to cause devastation in those areas have sadly left a gaping hole, and people who may have remembered this short period of time quickly erased it whilst the tragedies of war drowned their thoughts.
Overall, the documentary continues to show us what could have been, they take us towards a future that was not marred by war; a future that could have made the history books in a more positive outlook. Having that all sink in made me feel pretty sad about the state of affairs that the region faces, and even sadder at the promise of excellence that continues to be suppressed by doubt and instability.
This is a documentary for everyone, more people should be aware of this significant accomplishment, people should be inspired and proud for having now seen what history and media completely dismissed. Kudos to the directors for sourcing this out and kudos to all those amazing thinkers and doers.
Tanya Khoury // The Gulf Today