06/11/2011

Hala al Abdallah, Syrian filmmaker

“In Syria we are building a revolution in cinema”

Syria

Hala al Abdallah, Syrian filmmaker

Born in 1956, she has made several documentaries and has collaborated in the some of the most significant Syrian films. In exile, she is currently working on the post-production of her new film Comme si nous attrapions un cobra.

What is the situation with producing images during the revolution ?

For years filmmakers have been working to talk about their country and its history independently, films have been produced and blocked, censured, I’m thinking of films by Omar Amiralay, Oussama Mohamed… films which are 30, 35 years old but that are still alive. With this transition to action, the revolution, which represents a radical change and also affects cinema, people, filmmakers are no longer scared, they are aware of their right to conquer and retain a place, a space. Young filmmakers get themselves killed to send us images, others raise their voice and are imprisoned. Some films are being developed and others have been made and are broadcast on the internet, touching on taboo subjects, such as Hama 82, about the destruction of the city and the massacres perpetrated by the army in 1982, through images from archives and families’ witness accounts. And these filmmakers are strong because they manage to cover their tracks on the internet…

Are you working on this state of affairs and with what kind of outlook, distance and writing ?

Omar Amiralay’s films and mine are at the same time political films and creative documentaries. In Syria we are building a revolution in cinema : I think there will be great things, strong and new images… My next film,Comme si nous attrapions un cobra, is about satirical cartoons, which in newspapers all over the world make people laugh, cry, think but also provoke and disturb them. It tries to draw on this art of caricature, in order to paint a picture of the current landscape of freedom of expression in the Middle-East, with two narrative streams : Syria, Egypt, the historical struggle of established cartoonists, young people’s struggle and an intimate dialogue between the author of the film and Syrian writer Samar Yazbek, on the subject of laughter, freedom and censorship.

You have been subject to censorship, what has changed from this point of view ?

A censured film is a film which provokes fear because it pushes people to think, to take a position. This revolutionary phase represents a crucial change in terms of ideas and images which have a new power : captured time and time again they remain engraved. And for the future the most important thing is that people, filmmakers, are not afraid to express themselves.

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

We need Europe and Europe needs us. Syria doesn’t have any film schools or theatres and young filmmakers are in real need of training, of exchanges with other professionals. I myself have conducted clandestine training courses in my country. Our creative power is infinite and we have some excellent filmmakers who would like to pass on their knowledge, let their films be known, in Syria as well as abroad. European programmes and support funds only have a partial vision of Arab countries, like a bloc, yet each country has its peculiarities, both when it comes to creation and production. Europe has to learn to listen to us, to watch us, to be closer to Mediterranean countries.

(Antonia NAIM)

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