Young filmmaker aims to tell besieged Syrians' story

Fri Oct 14, 2016 7:19am EDT
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By Lisa Barrington

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian filmmaker whose harrowing footage of sarin gas victims in 2013 was seen around the world is using his experience of the attack and conflict to make a drama looking at why people take up arms in a war which began as a peaceful revolution.

Humam Husari's self-financed short film explores the chemical attack near Damascus through the eyes of a rebel fighter who lost his wife and child but was denied time to bury them. Instead, he is called to defend his town from a government offensive. The story is based on real-life events, he said.

"We need to understand how people were pushed into this war and to be part of it," said Husari, 30. "I am talking about a story that I lived with. They are real characters."

U.N. investigators established that sarin gas was used in parts of the rebel-held Ghouta suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus in 2013. The United States accused Syria's government of conducting the attack, which it estimated killed around 1,400 people, but Damascus denied responsibility and blamed rebels.

Making the film was an emotional but necessary experience for Husari and his performers, who were witnesses to and victims of the attack, and not trained actors.

"The most difficult thing was the casting and auditions," said Husari, who took about two months to write, produce and direct the 15-minute film and is currently editing it.

"A 70-year-old man said to me: I want to be part of this movie because I lost 13 of my family ... I want the world to know what we've been through. And all I wanted from him is just to be a dead body," he said.

"I was amazed with how much those people were able to express their tragedy and to cooperate with me on this movie."   Continued...

Syrian director Humam Husari (R) and cameraman Sami al-Shami (C) operate a camera as they film a scene  in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh