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The freedom that was won – and lost

For the same
Regissør: Waad Al-Khateab Edward Watts
(USA)

THE WAR IN SYRIA: A filmmaker begins to document a celebration of freedom in Aleppo, but ends up documenting the fatal consequences of this very dream.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

Have you ever wondered what happened to the volunteer news correspondents who reported from the Syrian city of Aleppo during the first five years of the uprising? This film tells the story of two of them, Waad Al-Khateab – a former student who seized the camera to document what initially looked like the ultimate triumph of freedom – and Hamza Al-Khateab, a doctor who joined the uprising and treated the regime's first sacrifice. That's how they met. She saw him through the camera lens, and this look through the lens remains the strongest human connection in For the same.

author

The short films Waad Al-Khateab sent from Aleppo during the siege were among the most watched news videos about Syria worldwide. She won a number of awards, including an international Emmy for news coverage. For the full-length documentary, additional material is used, but the strong and often disturbing direct images of the suffering Aleppo's residents experienced are what make For the same to a unique expression of motherly love: an ode to freedom, courage and trust.

https://vimeo.com/352128847

The film is presented as a personal story, told from mother to daughter. Waad and Hamza have both decided to stay after Aleppo was besieged. Waad says that Hamza told her when they got married: "This is the path we choose. It is a road full of dangers and fears. But freedom is waiting for us in the distance. ”As the bombs rained down from the sky above Aleppo, Sama was born. In order for Waad to explain his daughter's personal choices, the story alternates back and forth in time: before the siege, after the siege, a free Aleppo, a besieged Aleppo.

A political structure

However, the main structure of the film is political, and so it applies to the message of the daughter. Before: 11. March 2015, Aleppo celebrates freedom. Fireworks, people dancing and cheering while waving flags against the sky and showing victory signs with their fingers. Waad says: “We were convinced we would win. In the Aleppo rebels we lived in a free country. Eventually, we felt we had a home we were willing to die for. We could finally allow ourselves to take root. ”

The movie is presented as a personal story, told from mother
to daughter.

After: October 2016, four months after the siege. Aleppo has completely changed. A playground in the city park is crowded, surrounded by empty gray areas, perforated by the constant bombardment of the buildings remaining as huge pillars in concrete.

Before: Sama's parents have created a wonderful home for her, where the bougainvillea blossoms over the front door. After: Sama has to spend the first year of her life in the improvised field hospital with her father.

Offers a way out

In November 2016, five months into the siege, only one hospital remained in Aleppo – theirs. Among those who bring in victims from the latest attack, there is a woman – followed by a man with a child in his arms – who constantly begs the child to wake up. She notices Waad with the camera and screams, "Are you filming this?" Surprisingly, she doesn't ask her to stop. "Film this!" The woman shouts to Waad and continues to ask the baby to wake up. As if looking through the camera lens was a way to endure, to guard against the immediacy of violence.

After even the hospital was bombed, we see Hamza reporting over the phone. “The situation is terribly scary; Neighborhoods in Aleppo are attacked with all sorts of weapons. Bombs, cluster bombs, even chlorine gas in barrel bombs and bombs from the air. It is awful, yet the international community does… ”he is interrupted before he can complete the sentence. "Millions of people see my reports. But nobody does anything to end the regime, ”comments Waad.

The film's final scenes are reminiscent of the scenes where Syrian migrants come to Europe across countries from Turkey and Serbia. Of course they do, it's the same people. When the regime's forces were one street away from the hospital, Hamza received a message from the UN. The regime's forces offered him a way out. They would save their lives if they surrendered and went into exile. It is hard to imagine that what we are seeing is a documentary and not a futuristic dystopia where freedom costs everything, and where rebels are forced to live without a country, without a home.

Melita Zajc
Zajc is a media writer, researcher and film critic. She lives and works in Slovenia, Italy and Africa.

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