History often focuses on major political figures and events, and does not give room for how these might have impacted the lives of ordinary people. This often distances history from peoples’ experiences and makes it hard to gain a deeper understanding of the past and, in turn, how it might affect the present. 

What can we learn about the past when looking at the impact of war on the everyday life of ordinary people? How does this universalize the war experience – level the playing field? How does considering everyday life as a way to approach the war disarm the contested nature of the war? What is the role of Oral History in this?


  • Understand how Oral history can offer deeper insights into the past by bringing attention to the lives of ordinary people 
  • Learn about individual experiences lived during the Lebanese Civil War) and gain a deeper understanding of Lebanon’s past

Time and Materials

90 mins

  • Index cards (3 for each participant)
  • Projector/Screen to view film
  • Speakers
  • Film: “When War Sank In” (Links provided in the sources below)


Warm-up (45 minutes):

Before showing the film, we distribute 3 index cards to each participant and invite them to individually note down 3 scenes or incidents which caught their attention (they found it interesting or moving) while watching and on which they would like to comment after the film.

On one side of the card, we ask them to describe the incident or the scene and on the other side, we ask them to write their comments or observations regarding the scene.


Plenary Discussion (45 minutes):

After watching the film, we ask different participants to move to the center of the room and to sit on a chair facing the rest of  the participants.

We ask them to share one of the three scenes or incidents they noted down on their cards, without mentioning the comments that they added on the other side.

After the note is read, we encourage the other  participants to reflect on the reasons why their fellow participant was moved by or interested in this particular event. After a few minutes of this free expression and reaction to the choice of the scene and why their colleague was interested in it, we ask the participant in the center to share their comments on the relevant scene or incident and why they considered it noteworthy.

Then we repeat the whole process again asking another participant to read their notes.  

Guiding Questions:

  • Why were there different reasons why people liked or were moved by the same scene or incident?
  • How does this relate to our understanding of the Civil War in Lebanon (1975-1990)? And how can we deal with each other based on this understanding?
  • Do you know of any similar stories or experiences related to the  Civil War in Lebanon (1975-1990)?
  • What kind of ideas does this documentary spark about possible narrators or possible topics to choose for your own oral history project (keep in mind for later sessions)?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

It is necessary to remind the participants to respect each other’s personal space, especially in the group dialogue activity and researching the reasons of interest and intrigue. This is done by going directly to discuss the reasons of the colleague’s impact by a scene or his/her interest in it, without evaluating their comments. The purpose here is to explore the different effects of restoring history, not to evaluate the effect itself, which naturally varies according to the context and personal situation of each participant.

Sources and Further Reading

The Memory of War: Activities Handbook, Lebanese Center for Civic Education, Ala Boued Amtar/A Step Away, Forum Civil Peace Service (forumZFD) (Beirut, forumZFD, 2016).

“When War Sank In.” Directed by Fadi Yeni Turk & Roger Nasr. The Memory of War: Activities Handbook, Lebanese Center for Civic Education, Ala Boued Amtar/A Step Away, Forum Civil Peace Service (forumZFD) (Beirut, forumZFD, 2016). Links to individual sections of the film: Friendly Fire , Shrapnel, Borders/Life (Crossing / Feeling Alive), That’s How We’re Going to Continue?”