Department of Communications Hosts Screenings of Syrian Documentaries

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L to R: Ammar Al-Beik, Donatella della Ratta, Avo Kaprealian, and Sara Fattahi

L to R: Ammar Al-Beik, Donatella della Ratta, Avo Kaprealian, and Sara Fattahi

On November 15, the John Cabot University Department of Communications and the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs were pleased to host screenings and a Q&A with Syrian documentary filmmakers Sara Fattahi, Ammar al-Beik, and Avo Kaprealian. By the time the event started it was standing room only and as the screenings progressed more people arrived. The Syria Trilogy (Three Short Films) by Ammar al-Beik, and an excerpt of “Just Two Steps Too” by Avo Kaprealian were shown, while the previous night “Coma”, a full length documentary by Sara Fattahi, was screened.

The films of Fattahi, Kaprealian, and al-Beik raise key issues about filming in a time of crisis and trying to make sense of an event as it is unfolding. The films begin where the compulsive sharing of real-time events via social media ends by presenting us with a gaze that, while registering the failure of being there, simultaneously becomes an entry point to making sense of what is happening. Although the films showcased were very different from one another, they shared a desire to go beyond the image as evidence. It is within the folds of that desire that a new wave of Syrian cinema is rising, animated by a rage and an affection that will take them somewhere unpredictable, but definitively worth watching.

Some of the faculty present included Professors Antonio LopezPeter SarramFederigo ArgentieriFederica Capoferri, and Donatella della Ratta, who will be teaching for the Communications Department at JCU in Spring 2017. Della Ratta introduced both the films and the directors and served as a translator during the discussion following the screenings. Besides the numerous students, outside guests, and various faculty, film director Roberto Rossellini’s grandson was also in attendance and highly complimented the directors on their films.

During the discussion, many questions were asked by students, faculty, and visitors alike. Professor Argentieri asked them “[as an artist] what do you think is going to happen to your country?” Al-Beik replied with a famous quote from Pasolini, “we are all in danger,” while Fattahi stated that she sees “Syria as 3 or more [separate] Syria’s with their own people.” She added, “as a filmmaker….[my work] is something that can talk to the people….as an artist, somehow we are the communicators with the outside world….it is very hard to talk about Syria now because this is what I see [in the future].”

They were also asked how they feel about watching their films over and over again. al-Beik responded saying that he was “so happy, really…[nice to] remember some nice moments…” such as the birth of his daughter, which was shown in one of his short films. Kaprealian also said that he was very happy watching his film while Fattahi on the other hand said, “it’s very hard to see my movies. Because I’m far away from my family….unfortunately it’s very hard on me to see my family [in the film] because it’s very intimate and difficult.”

Professor Sarram finished the discussion by stating “one thing that is common in all your films. They are rooted in place. You are not there anymore. How do you see your own work now that you are not rooted there in place. Where are you looking now when it comes to material or stories?”

Fattahi replied “you can do films where ever you are. It does not matter where you are. You need to do something to give you life. I can’t stop doing films because it is like a treatment for me. I don’t know.” Al-Beik also stated that he does not need footage from Syria to keep making films about his country, in fact the following day he was going to be shooting in Rome for an upcoming project. Kaprealian finished off by saying that “it hurts because we are in another place now and we had to leave.”

Learn more about studying Communications at John Cabot University.