April 20, 2017
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Syrian Collective Films Life not Death
The CineSource Collective
Charif Kiwan, the only public member of Syria's Abounaddara Collective, accepts a Sundance Award in 2014. photo: courtesy Sundance
ALTHOUGH THEY DIDN"T SHOW UP IN
"film collective" internet searches, and their YouTube intro, "
", only has 401 views,
have been doing critical and fascinating work for years in Syria.
Rather than show you the maelstrom of death, dysfunction and delirium that can be considered "war porn" and is covered by many others, from the butchers themselves to standard media, Abounaddara endeavors to produce films "as public goods, defending the right of the nameless to a dignified image."
And dignified their pieces are. They often open with just sounds of water, of birds, and slow pans of a building at sunrise, of a woman walking to her fields or a soccer team warming up. Sure they inevitably cover the fighting but only as antagonists to their protagonist's existence, not the focus. Indeed, their focal point is incredibly wide.
"In the [soccer] team, there are opponents and supporters of the regime," a player on the national squad notes in an Abounaddara film. But he adds, “If you’re with the opposition, it’s best not to talk."
“'Our first enemy is pity,' Charif Kiwan, the group’s spokesman, and only active named member, said," according to a recent
NY Times article
(10/18/15). “'Since the beginning, we tried to say that we are fighting for freedom, for dignity.'”
This spectacular closeup opens Abounaddara's Sundance award-winning short, 'Of God and Dogs', but also closes it since the full film is not available. photo: courtesy Abounaddara
Part of that dignity involves the human trait of humor, evidently, considering that when he accepted the Sundance Short Film Award in 2014, for the 12 minute piece "Of God and Dogs", Kiwan said, "Please come and visit Syria, it's a beautiful country," laughed and left the stage.
Although their work is visually striking and highly aesthetic, often with long or extreme closeup shots, they are self-taught and use borrowed equipment to make what they call “emergency cinema.”
Indeed, they have done exactly that in 300 short pieces, often posted on Fridays, the start of the weekend in Islam. In their as yet little known oeuvre, Abounaddara testifies to the endurance of humanity in hell but also the power of collective filmmakers.
We apologize for missing them in our "
Cine Collectives Come Back, Finally!
" article and hope this serves as a corrective.
Posted on Oct 21, 2015 - 11:27 AM