Silencing a Syrian Film: The Case of Namocinema
By: Anas Zarzar
Published Thursday, October 25, 2012
Damascus - Directing a film in the midst of a civil war is no easy task.
This is why, when contacted by Al-Akhbar to talk about his latest project, Syrian director Mohammad Malas preferred to use the opportunity to lobby for the release of his sound engineer, Ghanem al-Mir, who was taken by government forces from the hotel in Tartous where the crew is staying.
“I cannot find a clear justification for the arrest of my colleague and friend Ghanem al-Mir. He is one of the best sound engineers in Syria,” Malas said, speaking over the phone from the coastal city. “He has worked on some of the best films produced in Syria.”
Other than revealing the name of his forthcoming film, Namocinema, the director categorically refused to reveal any other details about it to Al-Akhbar “until we have completed the filming process.”
Malas’ priority may be keeping his cast and crew safe, but his fans and followers are hungry for details on his latest project.
Al-Akhbar has managed to learn the broad outline of the film, which heralds the return of this giant of Arab cinema after a long absence, and at a critical moment in the region’s history.
The script, which Malas co-wrote with the much younger Samer Mohammad Ismail, plays with the spiritual concept of reincarnation, one of the most controversial tenets of eastern religions and some Syrian sects.
The story revolves around the life of a young Damascene woman named Zeina who killed herself in the late 1980’s. She is reincarnated as Ghalia, a young woman from a coastal family.
Here, reincarnation is used as a tool for exploring the experiences of two generations in Syria, that of the 1980’s and the youth of today.
The film is an attempt to communicate the multiple social, economic and political problems today’s youth have inherited from previous generations. This becomes particularly clear as the story moves from the period of the early 1960’s, when the Baath Party came to power, through the present day, mapping all the political and historic twists and turns along the way.
Namocinema dramatizes how this history, with all its political and social upheavals, wreaks havoc on the lives of ordinary people.
Through this story, Malas seeks to convey the heavy inheritance of both generations – a mix of past failures and future disappointment – which explains Malas’ collaboration on the script with a younger artist.
The film is reportedly being shot in an old Damascene house in Damascus’ historic Souk Sarouja and the Tartous countryside near the coast.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
Petition for the Release of Ghanem al-Mir
We, as signatories, are denouncing with great concern and indignation the arrest of the Syrian cinema’s sound-engineer Ghanem al-Mir.
On Tuesday morning, 2 October 2012, as he was participating in the shooting of a feature film with the Syrian Director Mohammad Malas in Tartous (Syria), the cinema sound engineer Ghanem al-Mir was arrested in his hotel by the Military Security Services.
No information regarding the exact charges against him nor the place of his detention have been available since then. His family and friends are deeply concerned. Ghanem Almir was born in Damascus, and graduated from the university of Paris VIII in Film Studies. He worked for a long time in France within the field of cinema. Then he came back to Syria, his native country. He knew how to put his expertise to good use in Syrian Cinema in collaborating on many short, feature and documentary films.
Ghanem al-Mir is considered to be one of the most brilliant sound engineers in Syria, and contributed greatly in the development of sound-recording and sound-engineering in the Syrian Cinema.
Ghanem al-Mir stayed committed to Syrian Cinema in spite of the violence and repression that are occurring in Syria, convinced as he is about the role of Cinema for Freedom and Democracy.
We are calling the Syrian Authorities for his immediate release, for Cinema, for the future of the artistic scene, for a Syria of tomorrow.
The online petition can be viewed at this site.