Then something happened that gave me one remarkable, inspiring thought about Syria. It has some deeper meaning as well, but I don’t feel much like getting into that right now explicitly. It started when I gave the Ghost a comp ticket to the last night of the Syria Film Festival.
He showed up pretty late and couldn’t stay too long. He left about two-thirds of the way through the longest documentary Lost in Lebanon, but saw all of One Day in Aleppo.
|Skyping in Ali Alibrahim, director of One Day|
in Aleppo, at the end of SYFF 2017. My
favourite feedback about this film came from
the Ghost. He said, about that moment where
the camera crew's car was shelled, "Are you
sure that wasn't faked? It looked too real!"
The real looks so real that we can't tell if it's real.
All of these were actual events that happened, and of course the crew never stopped filming any of this, they’re professionals!
Soon after festival weekend, the SYFF crew meets up to discuss ideas for next year. I mean, we’re also patting each other on the back, and usually having a big potluck. But we’re also talking about ideas for next year.
We have plenty, too. An approach for a rebranding as we head in to our fourth year, for one. We’re generating ideas to do that, new vectors of the Syrian experience to explore. For so long, we’ve focussed on the war, which is necessary, but has its limitations.
That’s why I mentioned my friend the Ghost. After watching One Day in Aleppo, he wasn’t able to speak again until three hours later. This was exactly the effect the filmmakers wanted people to have.
Here’s the rub. As the Ghost was driving home in a state of shock, I was talking business with people, congratulating volunteers, and chatting about our final attendance numbers. I’m not about to say we’re a little desensitized, but it does show a detail that we can’t see from being too close to the machine.
We play some damn heavy shit. Now, heavy shit certainly does continue in Syria and the entire Persian, Arab, and Southern Mediterranean world. But as an artistic approach, heavy shit brings diminishing returns.
My favourite film this year included a note of hope, even if it was only symbolic. The oldest daughter of a disappeared Free Syrian Army fighter develops a new identity for herself – no longer as a revolutionary Syrian’s daughter, but as a hopeful Syrian-German. Watani: My Homeland.
A lot of the most hopeless people I saw in these films were the ones who were so pessimistic that they’d ever rebuild their country. We need to find more stories of rebuilding – whether we discover them or tell them ourselves. If only to awaken the possibility.