Harvey Weinstein is talking about making a docu depicting Syrian refugee camps, but Ossama Mohammed, an outspoken critic of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has already made one about Syrian atrocities, “Silvered Water, Syria Self Portrait,” in which the horror is told directly by 1001 Syrian men and women documenting it daily with their cell phones.
“Silver Water” screened at Cannes out-of-competition, the only Arab film in the fest’s official selection.
“For all the people, demonstrating against Assad was an explosion of cinema. People screaming ‘Freedom! Freedom!’ and filming for the first time,” Mohammed said. “It was a revolution of cinema, of images, of expression.”
But, interestingly, the images he used also come from members of Assad’s military forces. In a clear sign of internal rebellion against the regime, the shocking torture scenes at the start of the film were shot “either by a soldier or a secret service officer,” Mohammed said.
For Mohammed one of the challenges was “to make it non-political, but rather try to describe everything that is going on from the inside.” And one of the biggest tragedies “are the soldiers, because every one of them is very possibly a slave, or a martyr if he does not obey,” he says.
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Another challenge was putting all the lensers “on the same level as myself and (co-director) Wiam Simav Bedirxan. We are equal. But they were filming in the area where death and life were intersecting, while I was in exile in Paris.”
Wiam Simav Bedrixan is a young Kurdish woman in the besieged city Homs who contacted Mohammed for advice on what to film. Her powerful footage includes images of the small children she teaches.
“She is a real co-author in the film,” Mohammed said. “It’s only because of her that I could make this film.”
Simav Berdrixan has been able to get out of Homs and come to Cannes, where the two co-directors met for the first time for the pic’s world preem.