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In Syria, everyday, You Tubers film then die; others kill then film.
A young Kurdish from Homs began to chat with me, asking: ‘If your camera were here, in Homs, what would you be filming?
is a relentless chronicle of the horrors of the war told through grainy, jumpy, pixillated eye-witness accounts shot on cell phones.
The immediacy the film achieves is shocking, but it is also mediated by three things: filmmaker Wiam Simav Bedirxan’s more professional vid-cam shooting during the siege of Homs, filmmaker Ossama Mohammed’s highly expressionistic editing together images, sound and music, and their intimate reflections on what they themselves are going through.
If it were not for the distance these elements create, the film would be unbearable to watch, though its intense poeticizing can grow tiresome and will be a foreign taste to audiences used to TV.
After watching undoctored shots of maimed animals and dead children, men being shot on screen, teenagers tortured in prison and streets flowing with blood, it’s hard to feel anything but outrage against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his blood-thirsty army.
Some may read the film as a call for military intervention, but that is not its main intent.
Mohammed, from his anguished exile in Paris, and Bedirxan, a brave Kurdish woman who smuggles a small camera into Syria, are more observers and witnesses as they struggle long-distance to “capture” the civil war on any kind of visual support that comes to hand.
While cell phones furnished the world with first-hand images of Iran’s Green Revolution, then the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, this is the first time that such a technique been so systematically exploited. PHOTOS: Cannes--The Most Glamorous Gowns At the Fest In the first half, Mohammed (whose films Stars in Broad Daylight and Sacrifices have screened in Cannes) creates surreal, almost lyrical sequences out of mobile phone footage.
How he obtained it is anyone’s guess, since one oft-repeated shot of a badly beaten teenage boy stripped to his underwear and forced to kiss a soldier’s boot before being raped could only have been filmed by the army itself.
Syrian cinema has always been notable for its abstraction and its poetic vision even amid pain (Mohammad Malas’s 2013 Ladder to Damascus is a prime example.) Ossama Mohammed, an outspoken critic of Assad’s regime, shows great artistry in editing together these lacerating images, intercut with the rainy Parisian grays around him.
He is tormented by feeling like a coward for being safe from the war, while he pushes young Bendirxan to film everything she sees in Homs.
Incredibly enough, she was there in May 2012 during the terrible siege, filming the tragedy of a murdered city.