Lebanese Rocket Society (The)
R2 - United Kingdom - Soda Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (21st January 2014).
The Film

***This is an A/V and extras review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

The strange tale of the Lebanese space race.

Beirut-based documentary-makers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige uncover the little known history of Lebanon's space programme.

The film traces the remarkable story of how, in a period from 1960-1966, and working on a shoestring budget, a group of scientists and students from the Armenian University in Beirut, led by Manoug Manougian, began developing and launching a series of ever more powerful rockets.

Video

The independent British distributor Soda Pictures release the documentary "The Lebanese Rocket Society" onto DVD in the United Kingdom locality at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which has been anamorphically enhanced. As to be expected with a documentary which uses a variety of new and archive footage, the quality of the transfer changes throughout.

The documentary is made up of a good mix of footage, from stationary interviews, to location segments, and, of course, plenty of archive footage/photos from the 1960's. The archive footage has certainly seen better days, but it's certainly watchable and in a good enough condition that it doesn't detract from the feature. The newly filmed footage varies a little in quality depending on whether the segment being viewed has been shot on the move, on location, or an interview set-up in advance. The colours are often a little dark, and blacks sometimes crush ever so slightly, but detail is reasonable and background items distinguishable. There is some poor camera control at times, such as when a rocket travels through the city again in 2011 (not for use of course!), and this results in some motion judder. There was also some very minor aliasing a couple of times. Overall, the picture quality is not great, but the problems appear to stem from production more than anything.

The disc is PAL, and the feature runs 92:11.

Audio

There is just a single audio track available here; Dolby Digital 5.1 in a mix of both Arabic and English (about 85%/15%). As should be expected for a documentary, it is rather front heavy, and the surrounds are essentially used for a couple of moments in the score, and not much else. Dialogue is clear at all times, and volume levels between the dialogue and score are consistent throughout. There are a few moments that are a little scratchy outside of the archive footage, but this has been done purposely for effect, especially over the end credits. Apart from that, the track is relatively clear and sharp, and although a little background hiss rears its head on occasion, it isn't overpowering.

Subtitles are available in Arabic, English and French. The English subtitles were white, easy to follow, and not too fast or slow. Unfortunately, the English subtitles are available for the Arabic dialogue only.

Extras

The extras start with a "In Los Angeles with Manoug, John and Hampar" featurette (4:10). This short piece has Manoug, John and Hampar meeting in 2010 for the first time in several decades. It's an interesting little piece, mainly thanks to a story about a Russian spy they had met.

Next up, we have the "Theatrical Release in Lebanon" featurette (3:04). This is Manoug's first time back in Lebanon in 47 years, and this featurette shows Manoug as he attends a screening at Beirut University for which he also did a post-screening Q&A, some of which is included here. I'd have liked to have seen the entire Q&A here, but again, this is a welcome addition.

The last of the main extras is "The Art Project of The Lebanese Rocket Society" various galleries, interviews and art projects:
- "1-A: Reconstitution" (1:05)
- "2: The President's Album" (3:54)
- "3: The Golden Record" (1:29)
- "4: Restaged" (1:37)
- "5-A: Carpet" (3:19)
- "6: Dust in the Wind" (2:11)
This is essentially a series of galleries and interviews, often with text introductions telling you their relevance to the feature beforehand. My personal favourite was Dust in the Wind, which is a gallery where the text informs us that the majority of photographers were not quick enough when they took photos of the rockets, and ended up photographing the smoke trail only.

The extras finish with the theatrical trailer (1:22).

Overall

The Film: B- Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: D Overall: C+

 


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