The War Show: An intimate look at the revolution
by Vittoria Scarpa
- VENICE 2016: Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard’s documentary, which centres around a group of friends who are bowled over by the Syrian repression, opened the 13th edition of Venice Days
From revolution to war in seven steps: The War Show [+see also:
interview: Andreas Dalsgaard
film profile], the torrid documentary with which Syrian director Obaidah Zytoon and Danish filmmaker Andreas Dalsgaard opened the 13th edition of the Venice Days section at Venice yesterday, kicking things off in the spirit of documentary film, is divided into chapters. Seven steps to hell, from the Arab Spring to the civil war, from hope to devastation, from marches for freedom to savage repression. A parable documented by a group of friends who, in 2011, started shooting a sort of amateur video diary, which is transformed, as things deteriorate, into a precious and pained testimony, experienced first-hand, of the oppression of the Assad Regime in Syria.
At first there’s a sense of enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and even a bit of cockiness among this group of young activists who join the protests in the street against President Bashar al-Assad. Lulu takes her hijab off for the first time, Amal smokes his first cigarette, and Houssam is full of confidence, whilst Hisham and Obaidah debate whether opposing the regime is brave or just stupid. Then there’s Rabea, who has been arrested in the past for being a heavy metal devotee, and Argha, an aspiring dentist. They’re smiling, all of them. They pass the camera around, capturing every moment, from the most private at home or at the beach, to demonstrations in the street, where chants and slogans soon give way to blood and violence, and the protests start turning into funerals.
From then on the film becomes a sort of road movie in which Obaidah in particular, inseparable from her camera, continues to document the descent of the country, documenting the epicentres of the revolt: ghost towns like Homs and Zabadani, which have been abandoned to filth and ruin and are controlled by gunmen, and where even children are taking up arms. The rebels mill around the camera to show their marks of torture and, to urge the intervention of the international community, stage a ‘performance of the war’, complete with ad hoc explosions and shoot-outs. Then, in this narrative that marches on in fragments, we bear witness to one last moment of light heartedness between friends, an excursion into the wilds of nature, far from the ugliness of their everyday lives, before everything collapses completely.
Arrests, torture and killings: the war knocks down the young protagonists and wipes them out one by one. This is when we really feel like we’ve been punched in the stomach, because the victims have names, plans and dreams that we’ve become acquainted with up until that point. An intimate glimpse of the Syrian revolution than makes this documentary unforgettable.
The War Show is a Danish-Finnish co-production (Fridthjof Film, Oktober, Dharma Film) which received the support of, among others, the EU’s MEDIA Programme. After its world premiere at Venice, the film will be screened at Toronto. International sales are being handled by Danish company DR Sales.
(Translated from Italian)