Waves’98 is an animated short film by Ely Dagher from Lebanon that will be shown at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival after its previous win of the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at Cannes. It is a wonderful depiction of an internal journey of an adolescent that culminates in insight.
We first meet the subject when he is at home in Beirut, thoughtful, brooding, and filled with ennui. He’s tired of everything, seeing the world as chaos and a mess, and convinced that nothing ever changes. He looks at his parents, and like many adolescents thinks, “I don’t want to be like them.” At night, he sits with legs hanging over the roof of his building and looks out at all the tenements around him and you wonder what he is contemplating, when an image of him swinging in his backyard seems to appear to him. Immediately thereafter, a bright light appears in the distance and he stands up and stares at it, intrigued.
Other nights, he goes out and looks for the light, but it doesn’t reappear, so he decides to hop on his motorbike and investigate the area of the city from which it seems to emanate. When he’s in the area he slams on his brakes because he suddenly comes across a gigantic metal sculpture in the form of an elephant. He’s not the only one; there are two other guys and a girl who see it, and when an opening appears and they jump in, he goes after them.
When he gets blasted out of the elephant, he is lying face up on the pavement with the other three. They strike up a friendship, spend time together, and soon, the world begins to look much different. Back at home, he’s able to use the fanciful experiences he’s had to enable him to run away from the old scripts that try to surface and drag him back into the sump.
Waves ’98 is short animated film at its best. It manages to convey and illustrate substantive messages with finely drawn, sculptured figures and a tiny bit of dialog. Ely Dagher, the writer, animator, and director clearly has a future in filmmaking.
A highly creative illustration of adolescent craving, insight, and resolution.