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
The Missing Archive of Loss
The visual artist Azadeh Akhlaghi began documenting death in the wake of the 2009 uprising, when thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest the results of the presidential elections. She was particularly moved by the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose killing was captured on video and circulated widely. The visual documentation of unfathomable injustice, she thought, allowed supporters of the uprising to visualize and ultimately mourn their unfulfilled hopes for emancipation.
The Photograph as Gravestone
The footage of Neda’s shooting invited Akhlaghi to reflect on the power of visual archives and the implication of their absence on mourning. She wondered... 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
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
Representing Refugees 2: A Blueprint for Navigating the Exterior
On their rafts plowing waters and waves, the escapees embark. Throughout their sea adventure, they forge their exterior. The deeper they penetrate it, the more it widens; the more they traverse it, the more it unfolds. At sea, they withdraw to themselves, beginning their lives on sweeping flowing land on which they live their seclusion. The sea grants them seclusion that allows them to navigate and conquer it by moving steadily on its surface. They cannot forego seclusion, for such act would lead them to the abyss; neither can they remain within it, because seclusion intensifies as the sea widens.... more
Representing Refugees 1: The World Captures Escapees at Its Funeral
The picture in which Aylan Shenu appears reveals a glaring conundrum: From which direction did the child touch the shore? If from the sea, his corpse seems to deny it because it faces the water; if from the mainland, his wet clothes serve as a further reminder that their wearer died drowned.
The child touched the shore from both directions simultaneously, for he travelled land and sea and fell in their environment, their milieu. And since his body then longed for the water, it seemed as though both sides were behind him; as though he had avoided them. And as he... 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
Article in the “heraldscotland” on Bidayyat short films, screened at Glasgow film festival
THE caption included in the closing credits brings you up short and reminds you just how perilous life is in Syria.
During the four months it took to make the short film, ‘Siege’, one film-maker lost his father to a sniper from the Assad regime. Another was almost kidnapped, and a third was killed during an ISIS attack on the Palestinian Yarmouk Camp in Damascus.
The casualties did not end there. The co-ordinator of the Watad Center, the main partner in the making of the short film, was assassinated in his home.
“This is just a small glimpse of the siege on Southern... more
Article in German on “Houses without doors”
Eine wiederkehrende Erzählweise in den Dokumentarfilmen mehrerer Sektionen: Menschen, die ihre eigenen Flucht- und Migrationsgeschichten filmen. In „Les Sauteurs“ (Forum) dokumentiert Abou Bakar Sidibé aus Mali, wie er versucht den Zaun zwischen Marokko und der spanischen Exklave Melilla zu überqueren – mit der Kamera, die ihm zwei europäische Dokumentarfilmer gegeben haben. In „Life on the Border“ (Generation 14plus) haben Filmemacher Kinder und Jugendliche angeleitet, ihr Leben in den Flüchtlingslagern von Kobanê und Şingal filmisch festzuhalten. Und in „And-Ek Ghes...“ (Forum) führt der Dokumentarfilmer Philip Scheffner, dessen zweiten Berlinale-Film „Havarie“ wir schon besprochen haben, Co-Regie mit dem Sohn einer Roma-Familie, die von... more
I am the picture and the picture is me
The crowds fill the foreground, a river of thin bodies, faces packed between two parallel, receding lines of ruined buildings. The closest face is that of an elderly woman, wearing black shawl on her head. I’ve never seen an exhausted face with quite this kind of parched fatigue before. It is an epic image, it could be a canvas by some great artist, but the truth is it is just a single snapshot from the siege of the Yarmouk Camp in Damascus.
How can an image such as this be beautiful, so very beautiful?
We are used to describing colours as beautiful... 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
Article about "our terrible country" in the Artforum by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
IN THE SUMMER OF 2013, the Syrian writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh took a dangerous journey from the rebel-held city of Douma to his hometown of Raqqa, now the headquarters of the so-called Islamic State, across the border to southern Turkey and on to Istanbul. One of the foremost intellectuals of his generation and widely considered the sage of the Syrian revolution (hakim al-thawra), Haj Saleh had been in hiding for two years. When he won a Prince Claus Award in 2012, he delivered his acceptance speech—an eloquent response to the twinned questions: why revolt and why write—from an undisclosed location in Damascus. “I... more
Spanish Article about Bidayyat's "Our Terrible Country
Ganadora del más importante premio en la reciente edición del Festival de Cine de Marsella, Our Terrible Country de Mohammed Ali Atassi y Ziad Homsi es el relato de un exilio en plena guerra de Siria, vigente y que viene cobrando cientos de víctimas ante la inoperancia internacional. El mayor valor de este documental hecho al alimón radica en la inmediatez, en registrar desde el corazón mismo de este conflicto el espíritu de reconstrucción y posibilidad de los habitantes que aún se resisten a abandonar zonas fantasmales, bombardeadas y dejadas en nada.
Los dos jóvenes cineastas apuestan en la primera media... more