Syrian film festival is the reel deal

 

Can a film and cultural festival be exiled? It can if it's called Reel Syria, and usually takes place in March in the cities of Homs, Damascus and Tartous. Civil war has driven Reel Syria, and the DOX BOX documentary film festival, to London at a critical moment. We have seen what Syrian government forces have done to Homs. But now, in very different imagery, we can see how life under the Assad regime is viewed by longstanding Syrian critics.

And none are more critical than Omar Amiralay, whose legendary 2005 film, A Flood in Ba'ath Country, will be screened and followed by a Q&A session chaired by the Syrian director Reem Ali. The documentary exposes Ba'ath party propaganda, and its effects on the people of the village of al-Mashi.

The narrative captures a range of people, from students to teachers and government officials, reciting exactly the same words of praise for President Assad, and slogans glorifying the Ba'ath party. Syrian actress Reem Ali's banned film, Zabad, will also be screened.

The Scottish performance artist Bill Drummond's choral piece, Score 328: SURROUND, will be performed by 100 volunteer choristers during the festival.

In another Reel Syria event, supported by the British Council and the Mosaic Initiative for Syria, creative resistance to cultural repression will be discussed by novelists Manhal Alsarraj and Mamdouh Azzam and academic Donatella Della Ratta. Steve Chandra Savale aka Chandrasonic will also take part: the Asian Dub Foundation's guitarist presented a series of documentaries for Al-Jazeera called Music of Resistance.

Reel Syria 2012, Frontline Club, London W2 (020 7479 8960) 15 to 18 March. Other events around London and Edinburgh (www.reelfestivals.org/reel-syria/)

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