A major part of the factors that contributed to the positive reception that Heaven Without People saw in Lebanon after its release was its capacity to “hit home” with the themes it conveyed.
From beginning to end, the Lebanese film is packed with direct and indirect references to socio-political issues that infest Lebanese society today. Here are the 10 most relevant ones:
#1 The voting tradition
Someone who votes for the same politicians every single time, even though they bring more harm than good, is not a surprising sight in Lebanon.
Many Lebanese vote for the same people that their parents had taught them to vote for and the tradition gets passed down with every new generation.
#2 Masked (or not?) bribery
Election time is affection time in Lebanon. When it’s time for people to vote, gifts, kind words, and “encouragement envelopes” suddenly start flowing through their doors like it’s their birthday.
Once the elections are over, however, so is the party… One of them, at least.
#3 Abuse of domestic workers
Unfortunately, racism, bigotry, and discrimination against foreign housemaids are rampant in Lebanese society.
Every day, countless domestic workers in Lebanon have to endure unspeakable suffering in the form of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
Often fueled by a mixture of sectarianism and politics, bigotry in Lebanese families and communities is not a rare occurrence.
In Lebanon, having a different opinion can sometimes even mean a trip to the hospital, or worse.
#5 The political life
It’s hard to stay out of the political conversation when everyone you know has a habit of constantly and fervently praising their side of the endless political clash while denouncing the other side.
Politics in Lebanon is the main conversation at work, at home, in schools, in social gatherings, and in the streets.
#6 Clerical “business”
Heaven Without People has a discussion of an incident in which a cleric charges more to officiate the marriage of an “unorthodox” couple.
Such stories are very common in Lebanon, across all religions and sects.
Heaven Without People delves deep into the issue of sectarianism and explores some of its dark alleys.
In fact, the storyline of one of the characters revolves mostly around the theme of sectarianism in a manner that, though unpleasant, sadly rings true in Lebanon often.
#8 Toxic relationships
Despite the fact that toxic individuals tend to effectively hide their destructive behavior in public, they sometimes slip and unintentionally show their true colors.
Some of the interactions that take place in the movie perfectly portray this notion.
#9 Domestic and gender-based violence
It should not be news to anyone that domestic violence is raging in many Lebanese households. This fact is being further outlined during these daring times.
Since the beginning of the epidemic in Lebanon, local reports of domestic violence have soared.
#10 Power cuts
You wouldn’t be talking about Lebanon if you didn’t mention its terrible electricity problem.