A Syrian Love Story, film review

(12A) Sean McAllister, 76 mins
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The Independent Culture

The director Sean McAllister travelled to Syria 18 months before the Arab Spring looking for a "real story" that reflected the political turmoil in the country. By chance, he met Amer Daoud, whose wife, Raghda, had been thrown in prison for writing a book criticising the government. Amer was a Palestinian freedom fighter and Raghda was a Syrian revolutionary. The couple, who met in prison, became the subjects of what first seemed like a conventional political documentary.

Then, after Raghda's release, this remarkable film turned into something else. Shot over five years, it became a heartbreaking portrait of a marriage unravelling. It is testament to the trust the subjects place in McAllister that they allow him to document their most intimate, vulnerable moments. Their children are equally open.

Given political asylum in France, Raghda's self-esteem plummets and she becomes suicidal. Catastrophic events in Syria heighten her misery. Amer starts an affair with another woman. The ironies are obvious. In Syria, when she was in prison and they suffered forced separation, the bond between the couple seemed unbreakable but in exile in small-town France, their relationship falls apart.