The War Show

The War Show screened last night as part of the programme at the 8th Arabic film festival. The film is a documentary which follows the tragic story of a group of friends who experience the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011 and its descent into civil war. Most of the group did not survive the the war. The film gives a human perspective on the horrors of the conflict in Syria but also examines the importance of the media and how the events were represented both within Syria and internationally.

The director, Obaidah Zytoon was present at the screening. She was a radio presenter in Syria around the time that the revolution started and she quit her job to join the movement. She explained that the Syrian war wasn’t the first she had experienced in her lifetime and that many aspects of the situation felt familiar or repeated. She said that a key difference was that it was “the most filmed revolution ever”, something which not only affected the regime’s tactics (disinformation about protests was standard from very early on) but even affected the experience of people directly involved in the conflict.

She said that injured people usually insisted on being filmed so that their suffering was documented. Later on, armed groups actually began staging or provoking attacks in order to get good footage to use when trying to raise money and resources. The director remarked that as the war progressed, it sometimes felt like reality was being defined by the way it was filmed instead of what was really happening.

In one scene a very young child is seen clumsily playing with an AK-47 which is taller than he is, with no certainty as to whether or not it is loaded. One audience member asked about possible ways to help people affected by the Syrian war and to prevent similar situations from arising. Obidiah said that the war had been fueled by foreign powers and politicians whose intent was never to  improve the situation. She suggested taking part in activism to try to depose leaders and political figures who wage war and profit from it.

The term ‘civil revolution’ was used a lot early in the film to describe the peaceful protests against the Assad regime. One person asked if the director believed it was possible that such a peaceful movement could rise again in Syria. She responded that she doesn’t believe so, because the conflict in Syria has created “monsters who are hard to get rid of”. However, she added that the spirit of the revolution has continued elsewhere as survivors of the war have been dispersed over many countries.