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Syrian director seeks to show “human” face of war in Venice film

Beirut, Lebanon
Thomson Reuters Foundation

The director of the first Syrian film to screen in competition at the Venice Film Festival has said she wanted to show the human face of her home country, calling out the media for presenting “stereotypes” of war.

Soudade Kaadan worked for seven years to make her first fictional feature film, The Day I Lost My Shadow, which draws on her own experiences as a young woman at the outbreak of war and will have its premiere in the Italian city on Monday.

Syrian film

A still from ‘The Day I Lost My Shadow’, filmed on the border between Syria and Lebanon. PICTURE: Supplied.

The 38-year-old fled Syria for Lebanon in 2012 and shot the movie on the border between the two countries. Most of the cast were Syrian refugees.

“I insisted on included my community in the film. There is nothing like the real face of somebody who has endured war,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

Kaadan said she wanted to avoid the “stereotypes” of some news coverage in which “all the complexity of humans is erased – like images of refugees and terrorists…oversimplifications of what is happening Syrians during the war”.

“The most important thing is to show how a Syrian and a human being endures the war. We were not prepared for this war,” she added.

Syria’s seven-year war is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 11 million from their homes. There are about 5.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries including Lebanon.

The government has indicated its forces are poised to mount an offensive on the last remaining rebel stronghold of Idlib, a move aid agencies say would have a “catastrophic” humanitarian impact in an area already packed with displaced people.

Kaadan, who was born in France but raised in Damascus, said the film dealt only with the early days of the war, which she experienced personally.

She declined to reveal full details of the plot, saying only that the film was about a woman who goes out in search of cooking gas and becomes stranded in a besieged suburb of the Syrian capital.

The title refers to the woman’s discovery that people are losing their shadows, said Kaadan, hinting at “magical realism” in the film.

“The shadow is an emotional experience during the war and I think all who witness war…will find it echoes,” she said.



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