09/10/2014

Syria Inside: “The Syrian Revolution for Dummies”

After premiering in Beirut, the film is now available for all to watch on Youtube

Events and Festivals, Syria , Lebanon

Syria Inside: “The Syrian Revolution for Dummies”

At the start of Syria Inside, the viewer may wonder what they’re letting themselves in for. 

Surrounded by what look like cardboard cut-outs, two Syrian presenters host the show, carry out interviews whilst floating in mid-air, and broadcast a mishmash of fictional and real-life videos about Syria. The videos include animations, sketches and graphs, but also real testimonies on the war affecting their country. 

Everything is suffused with a black sense of humour that is distinctively Syrian, as the protagonists of this surreal show explain: "We Syrians are known for our humour". The humour is not without its serious side, however, in a film that is openly against Bashar al-Assad, and certain sections are extremely violent.

The aim of the co-producers was to examine the origins of the revolution and above all provide a kind of "Syria for Dummies" in video form for a western audience.

German co-producer Jan Heilig explains: "I've followed the events of the Arab Spring closely, but was fed up of the media giving too little space to the views of real Syrian people. In the West, it's not easy to get a proper idea of the situation in Syria, not many people even know where Syria is. Not many Arab voices were being heard, and when I met the Syrian militant Tamer Al Awam at a demonstration in Berlin, we decided straight away to work together on a co-production."

Tamer Al Awam took an active role in the work, and can be seen in the documentary several times. He filmed in Syria, and died there in 2012.

Heilig therefore had to continue the project without him. Jan took on other Syrian collaborators: “It's not a westerner talking in this film but Syrians talking, in their way, with their art, their theatre and their sketches."

Hence the mixture of documentary and fictional videos, which allows the voice of Syrian people to emerge and which retraces the story of a revolution filmed by smartphone.

Jan continues: "It's not a documentary in the usual sense, because we wanted to tell a story, to experiment, and to use humour. In war there is never truth, only stories. I wanted to reflect these stories in the documentary, even if not all the videos can be verified. Many official and documented sources, close to the UN, do indicate that the things described in the film have often really happened.”

If the team working on the documentary wanted to tell the truth, should they really have used so much propaganda-like footage of children accompanied by emotional music, like that used by the darker elements of the Syrian rebels?

The producer responds: "When we finished the production, jihadism existed but we couldn't have known that it would grow so much and have such a presence in the media. And the Islamic State has no Syrian origin, it does not represent the Syrian people."

This is Tamer Al Awam’s legacy: Above all, the documentary is a tribute to Tamer, to the activists and the Syrians who still dream of a free Syria.

 

Anaïs Renevier

Translation: Hayley Wood

 

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