Film Archive

Damascus, My First Kiss

Documentary Film
Lebanon,
Qatar,
Syria
2012
42 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Lina Al Abed, SakaDo Productions
Lina Al Abed
Wael al Kak
Joud Gorani
Andrijana Stojkovic, Rami Nihawi
Lina al Abed
Ghanem Al Mir
In her third documentary the Palestinian-Jordanian filmmaker Lina Alabed once more addresses the role of women in the Arab world. The location is Damascus, Syria. The revolt against Assad’s regime hasn’t started yet. But there is tension in the air and the question of the limitations set for women by a male-dominated society must necessarily lead to the question of freedom. Three women talk about their relationship to their bodies and sexuality, about the pressures of tradition and feelings of guilt. Asma, a Muslim woman who was married at 16 when she had no idea what marriage means; Lina, the daughter of a wealthy Christian family, who regrets that she doesn’t know her body yet at the age of 45; at last the director herself and her very personal off-screen comments which forge the voices of this film into a single narrative. It’s surprising how frankly Asma and Lina describe their lives, surprising to the protagonists themselves. In a wonderful scene – Asma has just described how stroking her daughter in her arms was criticised as designed to incite sexual arousal – she looks into the distance, lost in thought. Then she turns her head towards the camera and says: Where are you taking me? So how can conditions be changed? Lina and Asma have freed their daughters from social pressure by allowing them to make their own life decisions, cutting a swath through the petrified social conditions at whose end the director envisions the freedom of humanity, independent of sex.
– Matthias Heeder

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Documentary Film
Lebanon,
Syria
2015
70 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Christin Luettich
Rafat Alzakout
Farah Kassem, Juma Hamdo, Joude Gorani, Rafat Alzakout
Zeina Aboul-Hosn
Rafat Alzakout
Raed Younan
What’s a good time for art? Perhaps a time when it seems utterly impossible and yet must be created, as a proof of vitality. Manbij in Northern Syria is one of the cities abandoned by the regime’s forces in 2012. The fighting, however, didn’t stop: Assad’s regime, the Free Syrian Army and increasingly the “Islamic State” are all waging an embittered war against each other. And yet in the midst of constant bombing campaigns and extreme hardship some form of public life is maintained by local councils and civic centres.

Director Rafat Alzakout, who emigrated to Beirut, drove to Manbij to see his friends and spend time with them for this film. He accompanies Ahmed, the ballet dancer, Mohamed, the former officer of the national army, and Taj, the former drawing teacher, in their attempts to lead a “normal life” under the circumstances and not to lose sight of their individual, artistic and social visions. Again and again they create provisional oases where people meet freely. The immediacy of direct observation and familiar interviews with friends as well as diary-like reflections create a beautiful balance between heroic song and everyday story, hope and disillusionment.

Ralph Eue

Sugar Cage

Documentary Film
Egypt,
Lebanon,
Syria
2019
60 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Zeinah AlQahwaji, Ali Hammoud (Reader Films)
Zeinah AlQahwaji
Ali Assad, Hassan Ali
Zeinah AlQahwaji
Raya Yamisha
A swarm of storks circles above the barren plain. The migratory birds can move freely – unlike the director’s parents who are stuck in their apartment near Damascus. Every day they try to overcome the fear of a bomb impact, but also of isolation. The increasing infirmities of age don’t make the situation easier. Since the outbreak of the war in Syria, Zeinah AlQahwaji has visited her parents again and again and filmed them in their flat to find out what “home” means under such difficult circumstances. She consistently stays with them in their cramped apartment. Only the eyes and the camera constantly wander off into the distance, to the city. The apartment is a familiar refuge for her parents, though they are confined in it like in a cage.

In her feature-length film debut, the director weaves the material shot over several years into an intimate portrait. It is an unspectacular look at life in a war zone, far removed from journalistic reporting. The passing of time can be seen only in the changing seasons. The recurring interruptions of the water and power supply also provide a structure. But even the news seems monotonous: When international political attempts to help Syria are announced once again, the parents don’t even shrug their shoulders.

Annina Wettstein