Sun 9 July 2017, 2pm
Screening and screentalk with Charlotte Bank
10% off 2 screenings
15% off 3 or more screenings
for Shubbak films at the Barbican
London, EC27 8SE
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Leaving the metaphorical language of their predecessors behind, Syrian filmmakers in the 2000s began to push for direct language.
Art historian and Syrian film specialist Charlotte Bank presents a series of short films that have pushed and tested the boundaries of what can be said in an authoritarian regime.
Syrian cinema has occasionally been described as “Arab cinema’s best kept secret“. For long, film production in the country was almost entirely state sponsored, yet the films of Syrian auteur filmmakers were very far from the cliché of state controlled propaganda films. Developing highly individual visual universes through the use of metaphors and symbols, they created a space for critical approaches to their socio-political environment. This inventiveness born out of a restrictive political climate helped create unique works of cinema, both fiction and documentary, often consciously blurring the boundaries between the two genres.
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, a young generation of filmmakers emerged who sought to speak through a less veiled language. While their concerns were similar to those of older filmmakers and focused on critique of socio-political and socio-cultural issues of contemporary Syrian society, they attempted to challenge the limits of permissible speech. Documentary formats were dominant, often inspired by the veteran documentary filmmaker Omar Amiralay and his highly personal, engaged approach to filmmaking. Reem Ali’s Foam (2008) is an excellent example of how young filmmakers were striving for a greater outspokenness in their works. The film revolves around a Syrian couple as they strive to balance their care for a mentally disabled family member with work, memories of political prison and a longing for change and immigration. The film represents a sensitive and multi-layered portrait of people who have paid heavily for their political activism and are trying not to succumb to disillusionment.
Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011, film production has changed significantly towards a greater outspokenness in denouncing the violence and destruction in the country and experimentation on the formal level. The aesthetic of YouTube videos have found its way into artists’ and auteur films, as have a wider use of found footage than it was the case before 2011. Ammar Al-Beik’s La Dolce Siria (2015) is an example of this approach. Al-Beik presents a parable on the Syrian present by mixing footage of the protests in Syria and a circus performance that involves a lion and goes awry with a nod to Fellini’s cinema.
– Charlotte Bank, 2017
Director Reem Ali
Syria, 2006 (46 mins)
Reem Ali’s Foam (2008) demonstrates how young filmmakers began striving for a greater outspokenness in their works.
La Dolce Siria
Director Ammar Al-Beik
Syria, 2014 (27 mins)
Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011 the aesthetic of YouTube videos has been increasingly employed, along with a wider use of found footage. Ammar Al-Beik’s La Dolce Siria (2015) is a stunning example of this new filmic approach.
Shubbak’s film programme is presented in partnership with the Arab Fund for Art and Culture – AFAC and the Barbican, with additional support from Al Mawred Al Thaqafy, British Council and Molinare.