Curated Online Cinema • Film Production Education
Last Men in Aleppo
dir. by Feras Fayyad (2017, 104 min., Syria, Denmark) In Arabic with English subtitles
Co-directed by Steen Johannessen. 2018 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, this breathtaking work - a searing example of boots-on-the-ground reportage - follows the efforts of the internationally recognized White Helmets, an organization consisting of ordinary citizens who are the first to rush towards military strikes and attacks in the hope of saving lives.
Silvered Water: Syria Self-Portrait
dir. by Ossama Mohammed (2014, 110 min., Syria, France) In Arabic w/ Eng. subs
Co-directed by Wiam Bedirxan. Shot by a reported “1,001 Syrians,” according to the filmmakers, Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait impressionistically documents the destruction and atrocities of the civil war through a combination of eye-witness accounts shot on mobile phones and posted to the internet, and footage shot by Bedirxan during the siege of Homs.
Ladder to Damascus (Soullam ila Dimashk)
dir. by Mohamad Malas (2013, 95 min., Syria) In Arabic w/ Eng. subs
Twelve young Syrians rent a home in the center of Damascus to pursue their studies. As the insurgency breaks out across the city, they can no longer ignore the calls for freedom. Filmed in the midst of armed conflict with bombs exploding near the set, Ladder to Damascus partakes of the tragic ongoing reality of Syria today.
The Return to Homs
dir. by Talal Derki (2013, 94 min., Syria) In Arabic with English subtitles
Nineteen-year-old Basset is the goalkeeper for the Syrian national soccer team. When revolution breaks out the charismatic young man becomes an iconic protest leader and singer. Osama is a 24-year-old media activist and pacifist wielding his camera to document the revolution. But when their beloved Homs becomes a bombed-out ghost town, these two are forced take up arms as insurgents.
A Flood in Ba'ath Country
dir. by Omar Amiralay (2005, 46 min., Syria) In Syriac with English subtitles
In 1970, director Omar Amiralay showed his enthusiasm for President Hafez Al-Assad's efforts to modernize Syria by dedicating his first documentary to the construction of the impressive new Euphrates Dam. The dam, and others like it, was to be the pride of the Ba'ath Party. The collapse of the Zayzun Dam thirty years later, which killed dozens of people and ruined thousands of lives, and the revelation of an official report that had predicted the dam's fate, inspired Amiralay to make A Flood In Ba'ath Country, which examines the flood's devastating impact on a Syrian village. With its powerful and daring critique of Syria's political regime and the tribal politics that hold it together, the film foreshadows the wave of democracy currently sweeping the Arab world.
Le plat de sardines
dir. by Omar Amiralay (1998, 17 min., Syria) In Arabic with English subtitles
A Plate of Sardines is a Syrian documentary film by the director Omar Amiralay. This short documentary tells Amiralay's own story about how he first heard of Israel. In his own words, "The first time I heard of Israel, it was in Beirut, talking about a sardine dish. I was 6 years old, Israel was 2." The film records Amiralay's filmmaker friend Mohamad Malas own reflections on his own native city of Quneitra before and after the Israeli-occupation and later liberation of the city. All the while strolling around the ruins of what's left of Quneitra.
Step by Step (Khutwa Khutwa)
dir. by Ossama Mohammed (1979, 25 min., Syria) In Arabic with English subtitles
Syria in 1977. Ossama Mohammed's film explores how in an oppressive society individuals are subjected to various stages of submission until they are prepared to accept violence. Images of everyday life in rural areas where education is minimal provide a portrait of young villagers. Theirs is a choice between a life of toil working the land as their parents have done, or that of a migrant labourer in the city. Trapped between religious and political ideologies and completely fascinated by authority, many of these young peasants choose the army.
We are currently seeking links for films by the following directors (with English subtitles):
Dreams of the City (Ahlam el Madina) (1984, 120 min.)
The Dream (Al-manam) (1988, 45 min.)
The Night (Al-leil) (1993, 116 min.)
Passion (2005, 98 min.)
Sacrifices (Sunduq al-dunyâ) (2002, 112 min.)
Stars in Broad Daylight (Nujim An-Nahar) (1988, 105 min.)
The Chickens (Al-dajaj)
dir. by Omar Amiralay (1977, 40 min., Syria) In Arabic with English subtitles
Amiralay’s third documentary was produced by and for Syrian state television, though it was subsequently banned. Its focus was the new chicken farming industry, though it documents not so much the chicken farms themselves, but the government economic policies that were leading to the abandonment of artisanal trades in favor of industrial egg production. With government subventions, the chicken farms briefly burgeon and just as quickly meet their demise. Set in the photogenic village of Sadad, where various faiths and cultures mix, the film’s exquisite black & white cinematography and unforgiving montage make it a masterpiece of mordant social commentary.