Between Life and Death. Liminal Images from the Syrian Revolt
Translation by Stefan Tarnowski
During my five years of research on the uses and grammars of video in the context of revolt then war in Syria, many images have touched me, overwhelmed me. Others have shocked me, wounded me. And yet out of this visual, aural and emotional accumulation, three videos stand out. They permeate my memory and my thought. Each inscribed in its own way in a grey, intermediate zone, where vision is blurred and the modes of perception are redefined. In this precarious place, it is difficult to draw the boundary between an intentional filmic gesture, marked above all... more
« You haven’t seen anything » / « I have seen it all »: Post 2011 Syrian documentaries and their frontiers
The voice messages as well as the Skype conversations with the parents and sister of the director of On the Edge of Life (Yaser Kassab, 2017) mingle with void: that of the static landscapes of the Turkish countryside and that of the road when leaving Beirut. Then appears a figure of the absence. It corresponds as much to that of the relatives – namely the brother who disappeared, killed by a bomb that fell on Aleppo – as to that of the country. The hypnotic landscapes refer to the impossibility of seeing and understanding the real-life experience of those who... more
What have we been watching? What have we been watching?
The meaning of words no longer had the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought fit. Reckless doing was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of weakness; to know everything was to do nothing.
Thucydides on the corruption of language during the revolution at Corfu in Alasdair MacIntyre, A Short History of Ethics
The question comes to mind more or less every time I click on a clip from Syria. And every time I read an interpretation that tries to fix a single total meaning, another clip... more
I am Sara the Syrian. I am looking for my body in a mass grave
I am Sara Jamil, I am not Tina Modotti, and I know nothing about the revolution.
On Good Friday April 22 2011 I saw people dressed in grey. Their eyes were like the eyes of good wolves that lost their will years ago. The clamour was like a moaning, an echo refracted from the sleeping, waking mountain: “Freedom…Freedom.” The Syrian regime is aghast. Fear of the regime is its omnipotence, and the collective strength its gallows. The protesters can only suppress the bitterness by being found guilty.
I spent my days alone in my home close to the gateway to... more
On the edge of life, A film by Yaser Kassab
About the film:
Yaser and his partner Rima leave Syria to Lebanon, but after receiving the news that his younger brother passed away in Aleppo, they end up in a remote and an empty place in Turkey.
In this place where the silence and the monotonous daily life being broken by the loud noise of the family calls whom still living in Aleppo.
To spend a year and a half, which was almost like a slumber and a coma, waking up every day on the recurring nightmares echo.
This film has received the support of Bidayyat's documentary grant 2013
Obscure, a film by Soudade Kaadan
Ahmad is a Syrian child who doesn’t want to remember that he is Syrian. Half traumatized, half trying to escape his reality, he prefers to be silent and asleep. In his silence and refusal to talk, he takes us in a journey where individual and collective Syrian memories collapse.
Director: Soudade Kaadan
This film has received the support of Bidayyat’s documentary grant 2016.
Aylan and Omran, or the How the Age of their Image Ended
In black and white, the man in the picture clutches the truck window. He is charred. For some reason, the flames could not entirely erase his features, so it looks as though he is grinding his teeth, attempting to escape the burning vehicle. But fire was quicker and stronger, confining him as he wrestled with death until the last breath.
The man is an Iraqi soldier whose picture was taken on what is known as the Highway of Death, the road that connects Northern Kuwait to Southern Iraq. This is where, in the 1991 Gulf War, the Allied Forces stroke an... more
A new Wave of Syrian Films Exposes the Failure of Images
In an increasingly appalling atmosphere of political stagnation, failed negotiations, and yet another ceasefire that won’t last, there is at least some good news coming out from Syria these days. A new wave of talented filmmakers is silently but powerfully emerging in the midst of a social media-driven compulsion to upload images nonstop and share them in real time.
In the immediate aftermath of the March 2011 uprising, Syrian activists and ordinary citizens have widely employed filmmaking to bear witness and denounce human rights abuses, in the hope that the sheer amount of visual media will provoke outrage and push the... more
Syrian Victims Teaching the World Regret
On July 2, 2016, the Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel died. As fate would have it, he witnessed in his lifetime another Holocaust; similar to the one he survived.
Although Wiesel is barely remembered, his death in 2016 reminds us that there have been major devastations, the danger and scale of which speak to what is happening today.
There are several differences between the two eras; between the time when Jews were unwillingly turned into a people and today, when an entire people is turned into the Jews of this century:... more
Article in the “Agenda Culturel” on the short film “Yaman”
‘Yaman’ c’est le nouveau court-métrage saisissant des artistes syriens du collectif Maajooneh qui a pu être réalisé grâce notamment au soutien de l’ONG Bidayyat. Ce film est donc l’œuvre d’artistes exilés depuis quelques années, au Liban et en Turquie, qui racontent par leur art l’anéantissement progressif de toute forme d’innocence dans leur pays et pour le peuple syrien.
Après avoir réalisé un court-métrage intitulé ‘Fade To Black’, qui évoquait la transformation de la situation de la ville de Raqqa devenue capitale de la barbarie et de l’inhumanité, le film, sans paroles, montrait simplement l’évolution émotionnelle et vestimentaire d’une jeune femme, prise... more
Yaman is a young inventor. His greatest invention is an incredible machine which can turns tissues into incredible ones, an invention that helps him survive.
Director : Amer Albarzawi
Duration : 04.05
Produced by: Bidayyat
Year of production: 2016
“The icon of the Syrian diaspora: On the picture of the drowned child, Aylan
In the digital information age, examining this image (which constituted a major humanitarian event the minute it was released) is an attempt to analyse the image’s relationship with the social reality of a given group of people, with political events, and to understand the potential trajectories of the image within the media, while avoiding the dictates of the fast news cycle and the emotionalism of immediate response. The photograph of Aylan, the drowned child, was first released on September 2 and it continues to appear in various contexts. The latest issue of the Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine, which is also... more
The Sea Belongs To Mariam” a film by Wael Hamada
The film explores the subject of exile and the impact this has on the refugee in terms of the lack of options in his or her host culture, as told through the story of Mariam, a Syrian woman who has taken the decision to move out of central Beirut and onto the narrow sidewalk along the city’s Corniche. She makes her home there and takes the open sea as her lover and source of income, so she starts fishing and she finds in the sea, her salvation and inner peace.
The film also addresses the subject of migration by sea, the... more
“Skin” a film by Afraa Batous
Skin follows the director’s personal journey through vivid memories of two of her closest friends, Hussein and Soubhi, living in politically and socially tiring times. She documents their gradual collapse, which, as she realizes later, reflects her own inner collapse.
This film has received the support of Bidayyat’s documentary grant 2015
“Umbilical Cord”, a film by Doha Hassan
A year ago my head began to reject my hair, like those places in which I’ve lived, the countries that rejected me. Land after land, one place after another: Palestine, Syria, and now, Lebanon—those countries that have failed and have burdened me with their failure.
The Gulf War, the family’s constant sundering. Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Berlin: parts of myself scattered across all these places. My memory, riddled with holes. My present and my death.
In Umbilical Cord I assemble an archive of my family in Kuwait: my dead memory of family. I embark on a quest for the unknown part of... more
" Chaos", a film by Sara Fattahi
Two women have given up on life; their words have stopped in their tracks. One exiles herself to silence; the other attempts to disappear in the company of four female poets who, before her, have attempted themselves to disappear in one way or another. A dialogue between one woman stuck in Damascus and another who had recently left the city. A dialogue between two worlds, internal and external—an impossible one.
This film has received the support of Bidayyat’s documentary grant 2015
"9½ -that's the age of Maha, a Syrian girl and the only survivor of her family. Left on her own, with a picture of her family all that is left, she embarks on a journey in her world made up of the visual experiences she accumulated and witnessed in the Syrian situation. During this journey, Maha makes unusual friends, with her imagination guiding her with sarcasm through this difficult world.
Duration: 07:34 min
Year of production: 2015
Produced by: Bidayyat
The Camera and the Samopal
The sky fell. The rusty fragments of metal rent air thick with the reek of bodies burnt by artillery fire and napalm. The buildings, warring with the thickets of lance-like rifles, groaned in the pitch-black night, alive with the endless screams of people who could find no way to live save tearing one another to pieces.
The sky dropped earthwards with the falling barrel, the distance between it and the machine guns and the gore-drenched bodies beneath less than the distance that divides the 50mm lens in the bag from the 55mm lens on the camera. The barrel takes seven seconds... more
A home on a rainbow
“3 years ago, the inhabitants of “Al Marj” refugee camp located in the Bikaa Valley, fled from different regions in Syria to find refuge in Lebanon. Instead of finding a safe haven, they were subjected to a sudden order of evacuation on the grounds of the tents being in proximity to a military zone. The authorities granted the refugees only 5 days to dismantle their laboriously built tents, without offering any alternative settlement option.”
Director: Rami Nihawi, Lina Alabed and Nadim Deaibes
Duration: 14:14 min
Year of production: 2015
Produced by: Bidayyat
The image of the oppressor and the image of the victim in war
Since the start of the Syrian revolution, debate has raged over the importance of the image, its potency and the different ways by which one can engage with it. In this article, we attempt to participate in this debate from a different angle: dealing with the power of the image, its aims, its audience and the ease (or difficulty) of accessing it, by reference to what is technically known as “hors champ” or “out of frame”—a concept that incorporates both the problem at hand and a means to solve it.
The power of the image
History tells us, unfortunately, that in wartime... more
“During Your Death” a film by Rafia Salama
Death has come to dominate the lives of Syrians. They have grown used to it; it’s the thing they are most familiar with. But what happens when one of them cannot get used to it?
Rafia is a young woman from Damascus who is terrified of the ever-increasing incidence of death around her. She starts asking questions, a quest that is an attempt to face her fears. She talks to a pious family man who sees in death the joy of meeting with God, a woman who lost her son, who has to live with his death on a daily basis,... more
“Threads” a film by Rima Al Hamed
All I know about my grandmother Evdokia is that more than a century ago she made her way barefoot from Turkey to Syria, fleeing the massacres against the Armenians; that she hid her identity and ethnicity, changed religions and gave brought forth my family.
Perhaps it was my sense that our stories were similar that led me to look closer at her life. For I have immigrated back to Turkey, due to the bloody events now taking place in Syria.
My interest in her story began with a desire to overcome my fraught relationship with my mother, who found in our conversations... more
”Suzi …Where does all This Violence Come From?” a film by Reem Ali
The Syrian revolution prompted me to rummage through the tales concealed in my family home in the village of Quatna (30 km south of Damascus), stories I had never once discussed with my family.
The house, which my father—an opponent of the Syrian regime during the presidencies of Assad senior and his son—was determined would be a small country of its own, independent of the Baath dictatorship… My father, who during the 1980s suffered from tyranny, the silencing of voicing and the suppression of freedoms, became consumed by his own private dictatorial inclinations, which manifested themselves most clearly in his relationship... more
Syria in its Own Image,interview with Mohammad Ali Atassi by Grace Bello
Mohammad Ali Atassi’s new documentary about Syria, Our Terrible Country, (Baladna Alraheeb) defines itself by what it is not. It is not a tutorial on the Syrian civil war. It is not a macabre spectacle of bodies, victims of either the Assad regime or ISIS. Instead, it’s a portrait of two very different faces of the Syrian left—one, the film’s co-director Ziad Homsi, a young filmmaker turned soldier in the Free Syrian Army; and the other, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, a former political prisoner and a writer and intellectual. Together, they embark on a tripartite journey from the wreckage of Douma, to... more
Article in the New York times "When a Revolt Goes Wrong" by ANNE BARNARD
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the early scenes of the Syrian documentary “Our Terrible Country,” the leftist writerYassin al-Haj Saleh explores the ruins of a rebellious Damascus suburb, his clean-shaven face, Lenin-style cap and pristine clothes marking him as a recent arrival from the mostly intact government-controlled downtown.
The camera and the man behind it, a young photographer and sometime insurgent calling himself Ziad al-Homsi, approach Mr. Saleh with reverence. It is mid-2013, two years into Syria’s revolt. Hopes for easy victory over President Bashar al-Assad are long gone, yet Mr. Saleh still has far more skin in the game than his peers,... more
Syria, “Our terrible country” and our disappointment with the West, by Graham Douglas
The well-known Syrian writer and intellectual Yassin Haj Saleh left his home in Douma, met up with two film-maker friends in Raqqa, and all three continued to Turkey, filming their journey as they went. Yassin’s wife Samira remained behind, until Yassin could return for her – she has since been abducted.
Ziad Homsi has known Yassin since Yassin moved to Douma, and together with his friend Mohammed Ali Atassi, the two film-makers accompanied Yassin on this journey, searching for a safe route by which to return for Samira.
Yassin al Haj Saleh is a prominent intellectual and dissident, who was imprisoned... more
About Bidayyat's production "I am Blue" by Abo Ghabi written by Jinnfer Machenzie
In at least one place where tomorrow feels lost, music still fills the gashed present with a kind of home-made mercy. The place is Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp outside Damascus, the present is a siege of over 450 days, and the music—unlike water and electricity–keeps flowing unstoppably from Ayham Ahmad’s battered upright piano.
Much more than a mere soundtrack, this music is the hero of the short, bittersweet documentary “I Am Blue”, which pays homage to Ayham’s insistence on composing in the midst of devastation, and the camp’s collective struggle to endure. Indeed, rather than surrendering to despair, the composer and... more
The color white
In his very first short film, Nabil Alsayes tells us about the little Syrian girl Rama who lost all her toys under the rubble! Like many others, she then left Syria without knowing what happened to her family, finding refuge in one of the many camps in a neighboring country. Rama hides her most valuable things, her dreams and hopes in one small plastic bag that she took along with her from Syria. She always keeps an eye on it, waiting impatiently to return to Syria.
Director: Nabil Alsayes
Duration: 10:46 min
Year of production: 2014
The Palestinian who had nothing but the wind and the Sage by JIDAR-3AZEL
“Sage” is the title of 7:30 minutes short movie produced by Bidayyat and directed by Hani Mawed that tells the story of “the consecutive expulsions and displacements (in Arabic: Al Nakba — The catastrophe) that the Syrian Palestinians have suffered from in their lives, the latest being the expulsion from Syria” according to the words of the movie’s description here.
The short movie takes place in Lebanon, somewhere by the sea, with no direct reference to the time which does not affect the narrative of the context anyway. Lebanon, the new transit-exile which is described by the main character Abu Al... more
Recently, the phenomenon of military brigades and factions that fight in the Syrian revolution and release statements claiming to possess the exclusive right to speak in the name of revolution and as those who own the truth has increased. This short video is a reminder to modesty, keeping in mind that there's not perfection.
Marwan - a film by Alaa Chanana
Marwan worked at the buffet of the Spanish Cultural Center in Damascus “Cervantes” in the hope of realizing his dream of traveling to Spain and escaping from his home country. But after the formal decision of the Spanish government to shut down the Cervantes, Marwan finds himself without work, and without hope for a visa or opportunity to travel. He decides to open a small shop near his home and takes part in some protests at the beginning of the revolution, which eventually led to his detention for several days by the Syrian security forces. On the advice of his... more
We are coming to slaughter you, by: Syria Untold
In February of 2013, in the northern side of Syria, over in a little town of Binnish, some extremists published a video showing a child being held on the shoulders of young men as he sings for Al-Qaida, Bin Laden and incited to kill the Alawites and Shiites in Syria.
Few months after, the supporters of Assad from the “Fourth Brigade” of the Syrian Army (known for its act of the bloody killing), recorded another video showing a child singing songs insulting the revolution and all its supporters.“Bidayyat” also had something to say for those who film and upload these kinds... more
Operations - a film by a young Syrian filmmaker
The revolution is still ongoing, but in a different way. The daily incidents and reports have created a distance from what is supposed to be of our own making. The revolution of holding flowers, olive branches and banners is over, and on a new morning, the same young people went to join the front fighting of the Free Syrian army, though in different locations and points in time. On another morning, they successively met in a house of the Theshreen neighborhood which they call their headquarter. Here, people are preoccupied with life, but death is constant emergency. Observing the interaction... more
Playing with death - a film by Hussein Alghajer
Ahmad is a child. He was born in 1998 in one of the poorest suburbs of Damascus “Hajr Al Aswad”. With the revolution, Ahmed left Damascus with one of his brothers for the northern city of Idlib, but was critically injured by the regular army during an anti-regime protest. In order to rest, Ahmad was taken to the city of Aleppo - a city where Ahmed eventually will join the Free Syrian army as a child soldier to fight alongside with his new companions on the front lines of this city. With each day of living and fighting with his fellow combatants... more
Al Qadisia - A film by a young Syrian filmmaker
Initially, the director intended to record all the details of the battle with her camera , from the very beginning until the very end of the fighting. But as time goes by and the young filmmaker shares the everyday life and risks side by side with the fighters, she finds herself developing a strong bond to this place and to these fighters. These fighters whose appearance initially frightened her, only to discover later - after a long period of staying with them not just a photographer, but as part of their group – how much they care for her, protect... more
Extremely Morbid Satire from Syria
The videos coming out of Syria of the nightmarish scenes of unspeakable violence and hatred have shaken people from around the world. It makes one doubt humanity and what some people are capable of: excruciatingly agonizing decapitations and cannibalizing raw organs, on tape.
I will not embed these gruesome videos here because I am still reeling from the carnage and gore. What’s worse is that children are present at these very public executions, that pre-teen innocent boys are being taught songs inciting violence, hatred and even butchering of people from other sects.
The video above, is a very morbid sarcastic video, and... more
We're coming to slaughter you
In February 2013, a video published on Youtube showed a child - surrounded by a number of children and young men - singing A-Qaida songs in the streets of Binnish in the northern Syrian province of Idlib. The songs not only glorified Bin Laden, but also incited to kill Alawites and Shiites.
The video spread massively among the social media and the city of Binnish quickly became infamous for the songs' core statements of hatred and intolerance. On top of that, the Syrian opposition as well as Syrian regime supporters used it as a means to incite sectarian killings and confessional... more
A Dream Of Powerful Monsters
From within the shelters that are home to Syrian children at the Chatila camp in Beirut, Lebanon; the director Lina Al Abed vividly portrays the haunting dreams of these forcefully migrated children, intersecting their deep stories and nightmares into one dream in the movie - The Dream of Strong Monsters - a short film by Bidayyat Productions.
Using daring audiovisual language that combines the beauty of the portrayal of the children, with the sensibility of the image, Lina Al Abed seeks an expressionistic pattern that resembles their dreamworlds. "It's an attempt at facing my own nightmares that invokes my continues insomnia",... more
Revolution in Syria and the Birth of the Image-Event - by Jon Rich
In March 1993, Kevin Carter took a photo of a starving Sudanese child crawling towards a UN relief camp less than a mile away. A few meters from the weary child stood a vulture, waiting for her death to begin his meal. Birds also must eat, and in southern Sudan they were eating because humans were not. Kevin Carter stood across from the vulture, lit a cigarette, and took his shot. Twenty minutes passed and the bird didn’t move, waiting in its place as the child continued to struggle towards the camp. They say that the child survived, but Kevin... more