Syria documentary, Mali Jihad feature make Cannes current

Thu May 15, 2014 4:14pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

CANNES France (Reuters) - An old man's white hair suddenly changes to red in "Eau Argentee, Syrie autoportrait" (Silvered Water, Syria self-portrait) by exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed, shown at the Cannes film festival on Thursday.

The amateur video may be shaky, grainy and lacking peripheral view, but the viewer instantly knows the man has just been shot in the head, another victim of the civil war in Syria that has already claimed more than 150,000 victims.

This and countless other images of the conflict are woven together in the documentary by Mohammed, who left his country in May 2011 for Paris over fears for his safety.

The film is brutal, visceral and hard to watch.

"Since I left Syria, I've become a coward," Mohammed says in a voiceover. But his film is a courageous and must-be-seen living document about the destruction of a country, a people under siege and the power of reporting.

Plagued by guilt for having left his countrymen at a time of crisis as the peaceful protest movement morphs into a civil war, Mohammed turned to amateur clips uploaded to YouTube to see what was happening at home. His film is a patchwork composite of the powerful fragments he found.

Key among them are images filmed by a young Kurdish woman living in Homs whom he met in an online chat. "Simav", whose full name is Wiam Simav Bedirxan, begins to film what she sees as her city turns into a pile of rubble.

"For the regime, a camera is a weapon," Simav says. Her images and those by other witnesses risking their lives to document their Syria are a scathing indictment of Assad.   Continued...