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REVIEW: A Tale Of Two Syrias


A FOUR STAR **** Review by Jennie Kermode, EYE FOR FILM, 29th January 2013

At the time of writing, Syria has been in a state of civil emergency for nearly two years. Many Westerners will be familiar with it only from scenes of destruction on the television news. Others will know something of its historic background, of its marvellous architecture and multi-layered religious traditions. In 2010, documentary maker Yasmin Fedda set out to produce a portrait focused on its ordinary citizens. The result is an opportunity to listen to the voices most often lost in conflict - those of the peaceful people others claim to be fighting for.

Botrous is a Christian monk. He recalls an incident from childhood where a teacher slapped him for asking what happened to the poor people who went to the mosque. The slap woke him up, he says. It snapped him out of his utopian understanding of the world and brought him into reality. Whilst Botrous works to organise interfaith conferences and bring people together, his brother espouses a simpler form of patriotism, singing the praises of the governing regime. There are two Syrias here - the utopian, with valuable things to say about the nation's potential, and the real, where positive results require hard work. Two also in the military - the bombs we hear in the distance, the aids spoken of in whispers - and the civilian, the civic, the product of thousands of years of civilisation. Two more in the two stories we focus on here.

Living in an ancient monastery with a complex religious heritage, Botrous is a man whose life has been structured around intellectual and spiritual endeavour, manifesting in care for others. He welcomes tourists and holds discussion groups on ethics with assorted locals. He is also a lifelong fan of football team Al Jazera, with all their songs on his USB stick. On match days, he anxiously clutches his radio, carrying it around to try and keep the signal. Desite his awareness of the troubles around him, he is full of warmth and joy.

Salem came to Syria seeking asylum from the conflict in Iraq. His legal status is about to run out. He is harassed by the locals, even blackmailed, and without a work permit he struggles to support himself; his homes are a succession of rooms rented in other people's names. In Iraq his hair was pulled out by torturers so now he wears it long and has it bleached in streaks, like a Nineties footballer. A trained tailor, he sews beautiful clothes. He misses his old workmates and his family. He is lonely and afraid. He sees the dark underbelly of a country on the brink, even before the real fighting starts.

Through these glimpses into two very different lives, Fedda illustrates a nation built from interwoven narratives that defy the simple categorisations placed on it by outside observers. The hopes, needs and emotional depth of her subjects remind us how many more stories there are still to be told. They will make your heart break over the country's current suffering but inspire you with hope for its future. Though we see hints of the brutality to come, we also see landscapes of breathtaking beauty, and the score, largely composed of traditional songs, is full of yearning.



World Premiere: A Tale Of Two Syrias


A TALE OF TWO SYRIAS receives its world premiere at Glasgow Film Festival in February.

A TALE OF TWO SYRIAS is a snapshot of life before Syria’s uprising began, seen through the lives of two people; Salem, an Iraqi fashion designer in Damascus and Botrous, a monk who lives a remote existence in a hillside monastery. The documentary offers a perspective on their dreams for a better life and the meaning of freedom in the face of a brutal regime.

Director Yasmin Fedda said, "On one of my regular visits to Damascus, my grandmother took me to the monastery at Mar Musa where I met Botrous. I became fascinated by his story and his community. I then met Salem who was struggling as a refugee in the city. Their contrasting lives and their willingness to talk on camera gave me the perfect opportunity to document their experiences of life in Syria."

A TALE OF TWO SYRIAS (64 mins) will be screened at GFT2 on Saturday 16th February at 1.15pm. There will be a Q&A after the screening with Yasmin. Tickets available from The Glasgow Film Festival.


About A Band in The British Library


The British Library have just finished cataloguing the films from last year’s International Folk Music Film Festival, Kathmandu, Nepal and they are now searchable in the online catalogue in collection C1516. This is the listing for About A Band.

The three day festival with the theme “Music for Life, Music for Survival” was hosted by the Music Museum of Nepal in Kathmandu between Friday 25th and Sunday 27th November 2011. Each day was dedicated to a different foreign musicologist.

About A Band was chosen by an international panel of judges to receive a commendation award at International Folk Music Film Festival 2011 in the longer film category.

The 43-minute documentary About A Band, Directed by Jim Hickey, features the Columcille Ceilidh Band which uniquely includes musicians with and without learning disabilities. The band is based at the Columcille Centre in Edinburgh.


Breadmakers in Korea


Breadmakers has been screened at the Jeju Disabled Peoples Human Rights Film Festival in Korea. The screening took place in September 2012.

Jeju DPI has organized the Disabled Peoples' Human Rights Film Festival every year since 2000 to eradicate social prejudice against persons with disability, to share the culture of the disabled with the general public and to improve the ability of creating films by the disabled through films and movies.

It’s great that Breadmakers continues to be screened worldwide five years after its launch at the 2007 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Director, Yasmin Fedda’s latest documentary, ‘A Tale of Two Syrias’ is presently hitting the Film Festival trail worldwide.


Double Bill in Belgrade


Both About A Band and Breadmakers have been selected for the 2012 BOSI FEST Belgrade International Film Festival For and By People with Disabilities. Both films will be screened on Tuesday 22nd May at 7pm and 8pm respectively.

BOSI FEST is an international film festival for and about people with disabilities which was organized for the first time in 2010. The festival's primary aim is to draw public attention to the art and possibilities of the participants, at the same time sending the message that disabled people should enjoy the same rights as other citizens.

More details HERE


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