The trash and the dirt and the misery

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Trash, dirt, and misery is how one of the proprietors of the Charles Helou transportation hub in Beirut describes it now. The site of Charles Helou became an informal transportation hub during the civil war, but in 1994,  it became official, with goals of consolidating several taxi and bus companies. Since the 1990s, its original sheen has faded.

All this and more is discussed in Nora Niasari’s short documentary “Under the Bridge.”

Beirut has a damaged transportation infrastructure to say the least and the documentary touches on a few aspects of it. From the hundreds of broke-down Czech buses now in bus graveyards to the chaotic bus stations underneath bridges, we observe how Beirut transportation also bears the marks of conflict and economic struggle.

The documentary provides the images, along with Lebanese narrations, that coincide with a more complex history. The history is fleshed out in the text accompanying the documentary, with a focus on the Dawrah, Charles Helou, and Cola stations.

Abandoned buses and tramways can be seen as tombs from a distance in ‘Bus Cemeteries’ located at the central stations of ‘Mar Mikhael’ and ‘Sahet Al Abed,’ with one or two caretakers watching over 500 buses on a daily basis. Cola and Dora still remain as central transport hubs, however, their socio-political fabric has changed significantly. In Cola, political forces including Hezbollah, The Amal Movement, and the Lebanese Army govern an overlapping area of Shiite and Sunni Muslims in South-West Beirut, where rising tensions and clashes are ever-present under the bridge. Independent bus and taxi drivers are suffering due to the extreme monopolization of bus depots by private companies, creating chaos and a feeling of constant fear in their daily activities.

Top photo of Charles Helou from Nora Niasari.

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