The “Emergency Cinema” of the Abounaddara Collective

The Abounaddara Collective is a group of self-taught Syrian filmmakers who produce one short film a week, seeking to provide an alternative image of Syrian society to that of the Syrian regime. In doing so, the group has created a cinematic language known as "emergency cinema," which describes their work toward emphasizing the situations Syrians face in their fight for their freedom. Prior to the screening of a series of selected Abounaddara short films, which won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the Abounaddara Collective described their hopes and fears as they face artistic persecution in their pursuit to break the silence and display Syrian society to other regions of the world. The Abounaddara Collective Shorts will screen Thursday, June 19 at the IFC Center, as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, followed by a discussion with Charif Kiwan, spokesperson for the Abounaddara Collective.

FilmLinc asked the directors included in the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival to give some insight on filmmaking and tackling issue-oriented work prior to the launch of the series.

Abounaddara Collective Shorts

Various filmmakers, Syra, 2013, 90m

Responses by the Aboundaddara Collective:

On making films to represent Syria's society:

We make films because it’s what we can do best to support our society, which is fighting for survival. In our films, we try to represent Syrians in a just and dignified way. We want to offer a credible alternative to the regime’s narrative, which maintains that Syrians who oppose it are nothing but terrorists, as well as to the media’s narrative, which sees nothing in Syria but Muslims, Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, etc.

On changing the viewer's perception of reality through film:

We are filmmakers who have to work in extreme conditions. But our point of view is primarily aesthetic in the sense that we try to translate Syrian society’s conflict using a unique cinematic form. For us, films should burst out like bullets to break the silence. They should tell the Syrian story with great narrative intensity and to make the viewer look at reality differently. Whereas activist films tend to represent events in terms of a Manichean conflict between good and evil, our films put forward a complex, open message, which allows for greater freedom of interpretation.

On artistic persecution and filmmaker perseverance:

We work in extreme conditions, without any financial support, and are always at risk of being subjected to the same sort of treatment as our colleagues who have been killed or imprisoned by the Assad Regime. But the biggest challenge is seeing that our films don’t do much to help. Every Friday since April 2011, we have released a short film showing that Syrians are like women and men the world over. Yet, the world continues to watch while Syrians die as if nothing is happening. How can you believe in cinema after that?

On representing Syria to the public:

We would like viewers to "take away" a link for the Abounaddara page on Vimeo or Facebook and share it with their friends. Because the support of the public, especially the American public, is particularly important when it comes to influencing the media, which until now has represented Syrians in a way that is unjust and undignified.

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