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LOCARNO 2019 Competition

Review: During Revolution

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- Syrian director Maya Khoury looks at the future of her country torn between determination and utopia

Review: During Revolution

The latest film from Maya Khoury, During Revolution, is also, as usual, intimately linked to the Abounaddara collective, which she co-founded in 2010 and which, other than participate in documenta 14, also won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for the film Of God and Dogs. During Revolution gives a voice to the Syrian people in all their splendid diversity. In competition for the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival, During Revolution remains faithful to the principles of the collective to which Khoury belongs: to capture as immediately as possible (almost live) a complex and constantly changing political situation, and to give a voice to a wide diversity of opinions often suffocated under the classic ‘(anonymous) victim / executioner’ dichotomy.

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What During Revolution seeks to show is the complexity of Syrian society, and in particular that of the part of the population which opposes Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship. Difficult to define because it is still elusive, versatile, and engaged in struggle, the argument of the many dissidents who every day risk their lives in Syria takes shape in front of our eyes thanks to the director’s video camera.

It suits the title of the film: “during” the revolution, an invisible woman observes with her omnipresent and merciless eye (capturing very powerful, difficult images of the mutilated bodies of those who end up on the hospitals’ improvised stretchers). That it is a woman who bears witness (between 2011 and 2017) of a revolution, that of Syria — which denies its existence — gives the film a rare force and power, using the means of filmmaking to the maximum of their ability to penetrate the complexity of reality. A multiplication of points of view which, instead of being implicit in the journalistic coverage, progressively reveals itself to be the great absentee of the media.

During Revolution does not only represent the diary of a country at war, but also and most of all that of a group of political activists completely inhabited by their ideals and by their conviction that, under the rubble of their country, the force necessary to its regeneration lives on. Through the story of the lives of her characters, Maya Khoury creates a testament to the difficulty of maintaining a hope which, in constant conflict with the diverging opinions of different generations and religious dogmas, risks to vanish. How to challenge a despotic and impetuously dogmatic government without first instilling in all a necessary and lasting feeling of belonging to a country that is free and ready to fight? It is around this question that the film revolves.

During Revolution succeeds in the difficult enterprise of objectively analysing the future of the Syrian revolution without forgetting — and on the contrary by integrating — the individual points of view of its many protagonists. The coming and going of perspectives is led by Nour, committed journalist and central figure of the film, who becomes the mouthpiece of a whole community which, though it is deeply hurt, is not yet defeated. How do you keep living and hoping after having seen the worst? How do you stay on the right side when violence seems to submerge everything? These and many others are the fundamental questions which Maya Khoury’s film explores and which it is up to us viewers to try and answer.

During Revolution is produced by Syria (The Abounaddara Collective) and Sweden (Noncitizen Collective).

(Translated from Italian)

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