Providing a voice to those who have been silenced
A large part of what Showroom offers the city is a place to explore and discuss film with others, whether that be fellow audience members, experts, and specialists, or even those behind or in front of the camera. While the physical space might not be open just yet, the independent film industry has still found ways to bring audiences together. Happening around the world as well as nationally, watch-along screenings and Q&As are now commonplace across social media and streaming platforms. Initiative’s such as Film Feels Connected from Film Hub Midlands has helped independent cinemas, film distributors, festivals, and film programmers to keep conversations going across the UK.
As part of this initiative, Reclaim the Frame, a project led by the brilliant team at Birds Eye View, who champion the female perspective in film, streamed a conversation between two award-winning filmmakers whose work focuses on Syrian stories - Waad Al-Kateab (For Sama) and Yasmin Fedda (Queens of Syria, A Tale of Two Syrians) for World Humanitarian Day.
The discussion centred on Fedda’s latest film, Ayouni, her first feature-length documentary since 2014’s Queens of Syria, which we screened in 2018 as part of the annual Migration Matters festival during Refugee Week. Ayouni took six years to make and follows Noura and Machi as they search for their loved ones - Bassel Safadi and Paolo Dall’Oglio, who are amongst Syria’s 100,000+ who have forcibly “disappeared”.
As part of the discussion, Waad Al-Kateab shared her experience of the responsibility she carries specifically as a Syrian filmmaker. For her, the situation of living in a near-constant conflict has left her and other Syrian people with nothing, robbed of their present, and at times their hope for the future. What remains is memories and stories of others, which film has the power to preserve and share with the world to help bring justice to the people of Syria.
When mainstream news outlets choose to focus on counting how many people cross the channel in dinghies, instead of exposing the horrific situations people are desperately trying to escape from, films like Ayouni are incredibly powerful records of events that shape our world and might otherwise go undocumented. While they often depict harrowing experiences that are so far removed from our own everyday experience that they can be difficult to process, they are a vital archive that provides a voice to those who have been silenced.
This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on 27 August 2020.