Taste of Cement

Ziad Kalthoum

Observational documentary that takes us up to hazardous heights: Syrian refugees are building new skyscrapers in post-war Beirut, while violence in their own country continues unabated.

In this beautiful, stylized documentary, we see how Syrian refugees in Beirut are working on the reconstruction of a city that was destroyed not all that long ago. In their own country, the war rages on, and buildings are still being destroyed by bombstrikes every day.

High in the air, on top of the buildings, they have an incredible view of the city; they can see the sea. But the freedom of these views stands in bleak contrast to the reality of their lives. An evening curfew prohibits refugees from going out after 7 PM. Confined to their building complex, surrounded by the nerve-wracking sound of construction machinery, they lead hard, monotonous lives. Their few free hours, they spend together, huddled around a small television, anxious and appalled as they follow the news from their homeland.

Images of construction are alternated with archival footage showing how buildings in Syria are collapsing as a result of the damage caused by war; hundreds of people vanish under the rubble. Stunningly beautiful camera work and sophisticated editing create a confronting interplay of construction and destruction. Viewers can almost smell the billowing clouds of dust and catch the taste of cement on their tongue, a taste that Syrians know all too well.

Taste of Cement is part of the On the Move theme programme.


Ziad Kalthoum
Country of production
Germany, Lebanon, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
85 minutes
Spoken language
Production company
World Sales