One of our greatest shortfalls: film education and training
It is difficult for us in Syria to make films if we consider that there is no specific training or school, no specialised institute. Some technicians may be competent on the technical level, but have no artistic education to begin with, and therefore lack a global artistic vision. Sometimes, film directors may have a strong idea, but their visual language is weak. The lack of technical and artistic education is a problem, especially as for the ability to reflect on film language.
Being a female director in Syria…
Being a woman in Syrian troupes isn’t always easy. People are surprised when they meet me, camera in hand. However, for once it turned out to be an asset. When I filmed in the youth detention centre for “Two Cities and a Prison” with the NGO Movimondo, the warders let me in with the camera… they thought that a woman with a camera couldn’t do much harm: to them I was obviously a little amateur. So they let me film in prison during three months with the camera! (1)
Syrian aesthetics? Mediterranean aesthetics?
When I studied cinema with the Lebanese, I realised how strongly my country had shaped and conditioned my aesthetic sense, of how I was used to say things in a roundabout way: we’re unaccustomed to explicit language, I have often felt incapable of saying things directly without using half words. It’s our Syrian art of telling things…also of filming…In Lebanon, people speak more directly, they don’t beat around the bush. I believe that Syria and Lebanon have a great aesthetical difference. Besides, if the dissimilarity between two neighbouring countries is so significant… I find it really impossible to speak about common aesthetics among Mediterranean countries…
My viewer is Arabic, my producer is European…but I refuse to make any compromise:
There are several documentary directors in Syria, but they are all indies. Most directors screen their films abroad. My major problem as a Syrian documentary maker, is that my viewer is Arabic but doesn’t watch documentaries. Europeans do. However I don’t want to fall into a European vision, I’m not trying to make a film for a European festival. I don’t want to make any compromise. I make documentaries for an Arabic public…that’s the hard part. As Arab directors, we run the great risk of falling into a European vision, since we are often financed by European producers. I personally try to stay free, to say things the way I see them, with the eyes of a Syrian.
Two Cities and a Prison
, documentary, 39 min. Production: Daylight-Damascus 2008
• 2007, documentary on swearwords in Lebanese dialect, 35 min, - Production: Saint Joseph University, Beirut.
• In the pipeline: Looking for Pink: an interview with 5 Syrian women who have become famous despite social pressure…
(1) Eventually, on the last day of shooting, we even obtained the official permission to film.