Charif Kiwan, spokesperson for Syrian filmmakers collective Abounaddara

“Syrian filmmakers need to convince the public that cinema is necessary”


Based in Damas, a collective of Syrian artists and filmmakers, Abounaddara, has chosen to protest against repression by making a series of short films available on the website www.abounaddara.com and has chosen to use strong cinematographic and aesthetic codes, with a common identity and a spokesperson.

Could you tell me about the Abounaddara collective and its work on the revolution in Syria ?

Abounaddara was established in 2010 around a homonymous production company. We wanted to use alternative routes for distribution in order to come out of the stalemate in which Syrian documentary cinema found itself (unrelenting censure, near non-existant production, confidential audience, etc.). We used an uninhibited cinematographic style of writing which is not scared of going on the internet or the small computer screen.

How do you film the revolution ? What standpoint, what kind of writing ?

We committed to making a short film every Friday as a contribution to the revolution. But we didn’t film our revolution in the way that you might see it on youtube through unbearable chaotic images. Rather we sought to understand it through the stories of individuals who are on the other side of the news. For us it is a question of making an immediate cinema without succumbing to the tyranny of the news, of making a political cinema without succumbing to facile denounciation. To give an example, at the time in which the Syrian regime killed some children in order to push Syrians towards revenge and civil war we made a film that evokes a mother’s pain through some shots of a cemetery and a kyte, to the music of a lullaby called Rima which gives name to the film. We wanted to detach the viewer from the barbarity relayed by the images of childrens’ dead bodies which were spread out all over social networks.

On what condition can freedom of expression for filmmakers establish itself in Syria today ? Is there contact and a “transmission” between the generation of committed filmmakers such as Omar Amiralay, Hala Abdallah, Oussama Mohamed etc. and young filmmakers?

In order to gain their freedom of expression, Syrian filmmakers need to convince the public that cinema is necessary. It’s particularly true of documentary cinema, which, since the abortion of Omar Amiralay’s major experience in the Syrian National Film Organisation, has had to turn to international festivals and European television channels. As far as we are concerned at least, support from the public has allowed us to make iconoclastic films which deal as much with politics (The End), as with religion (Allah iselsewhere) or social issues (The Wall). We thereby hope to reconnect with our elders, who, through next to no means, were able to produce popular cinema of high quality before the Baath Flood.

What are you now expecting from European Film institutions and professionals?

European cinema is an important source of inspiration for us. In fact, the films we have been making since the beginning of the revolution borrow heavily from the « political films » which came out of the ‘Etats-généraux du cinéma’ (the Estates General of French Cinema), after 1968 in France. We now expect Europe to watch our films as we watched its own ones. More generally, we hope that the revolution will lead to the establishment of a mechanism of grants and exchange which will promote a kind of Republic of cinema shared by the two shores of the Mediterranean, independently of political agendas.

(Antonia Naim)

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