ArteNews & Events

< Back to ArteNews & Events

REVOLUTION OF THE WIND

REVOLUTION OF THE WIND                                                                                                                  How autobiographical Syrian films allow ghosts back 

Featuring: Reem Al Ghazzi, Ammar Obeid, Yazan Rabee, Samer Najari, Meyar Al Roumi, Afraa Batous, Eyas Almokdad, Émilie Serri, Wael Kadlo                                                                                Curated by Ahmad Alhaj

Online screening

Part 1: April 11 – 21, 2024

Part 2: April 21-30, 2024

RSVP: artearchive.org

Available worldwide

FREE / $5 suggested donation

In-person Screening and Conversation

Institute for Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA)

Sunday, April 21

Doors open at 4:30 PM ET

Screening begins at 5 PM ET

Address: 22 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014

Ticket Price: $6

RSVP: Eventbrite 

We Syrians are haunted by the wind. The saying goes, “be ready, the past is coming.” And I say, “be ready, Syrian films are coming like the wind.” -Ahmad Alhaj 

REVOLUTION OF THE WIND is a series of Syrian autobiographical fiction and documentary films exploring migration, grief, memory and history following the political instability of the Arab Spring. Within this program, the wind is understood to be the central metaphor that represents destiny and which links the films together. Whether through unleashing its wrath, or by leading in flight, the wind is an element that guides the lives of countless people in ways unseen. Primarily shot across North America and Europe, the films present deeply humanizing narratives of Syrian experiences, shedding light of the contradictions and irreconcilable realities of longing for a past that haunts the present. 

REVOLUTION OF THE WIND is curated by Ahmad Alhaj and presented by ArteEast. This program is part of the legacy program Unpacking the ArteArchive, which preserves and presents 20 years of film and video programming by ArteEast. The program will be screened in two parts online on artearchive.org from April 11 – 21 and April 21 – 30. A selection from the program will be screened in person at IAIA, Institute of Arab and Islamic Art, on Sunday, April 21.

PART I

All roads lead to more, Afraa Batous, Germany, 2023, 78 min.

Documentary, Arabic with English subtitles

In the summer of 2020, Afraa, the director, and her three counterparts – Rahaf, Rawa, and Sara –set off on their very first road trip through Europe.

But this is no ordinary vacation, and neither are these women. Each of them came to Europe by a different route and had to make different choices in their lives until they met in Berlin and will revisit by their white van the transit points through which they first arrived on the continent.

Love, summer songs, the comedy that comes from trying to pitch a tent in the dark, Greek islands and even a little dancing – but also a distinctively European geography of pain points, with each stop marked by grief, trauma, regret and the dull roar of heartache.

Throughout their journey, the women share their stories and experiences, each bringing a unique perspective on displacement and migration. Along the way, they encounter challenges and obstacles that test their resolve and make them confront their pasts.

Despite the weighty themes, the film strikes a delicate balance by including moments of humor and joy that remind us of the resilience and strength of the human spirit. It is a journey to reflect on exile and home, on what it means to be a woman and a refugee, and on how far we have come as humans in terms of freedom of movement.

Damascus Dreams, Émilie Serri, Canada, 2021, 83 min.

Documentary, French and Arabic with English subtitles

Damascus Dreams follows a filmmaker’s journey to her inaccessible homeland as she composes a Syria that stands somewhere between reality and myth, dream and nightmare, past and present.

Memory is a Dying Horse, Samer Najari, Canada, 2021, 28 min.

Documentary, Silent

Trying to freeze time is an illusion. Whatever we do, life unfolds in one direction. Memory is a dying horse is yet another desperate attempt to challenge the irreversibility of time. A sparse, raw, somehow childish collage of reminiscences filmed on Super 8 between Syria, France and Canada. The whole is accompanied by musical explorations.

Silent Cinema, Meyar Al Roumi, Syria, 2001, 28 min.

Documentary, Arabic and French with English subtitles

Upon graduating from a film studies program in Paris, Meyar al-Rumi returns to his native Damascus, eager to start making films. But when the script he proposes is rejected by the censors, he is instead inspired to make a portrait of the Syrian filmmakers who have been affected most by censorship. The film is a courageous short documentary on filmmaking in Syria.

The Final Scene, Eyas Almokdad, Belgium, 2022, 98 min.

Documentary, Arabic with English subtitles

The Final Scene brings us back to the first year of the Syrian revolution through the story of the activist Orwa Al Mokdad, who documented the events of the first year of revolution. After leaving Syria to Lebanon, Orwa presented all the material he recorded to his brother Eyas – a filmmaker based in Belgium – to complete the film he was working on to show the peaceful face of the Syrian revolution. Eyas began searching the material only to discover another face to his brother and his comrades who risked their lives to bring the revolution into reality. Defeat and loss are part of the story of the peaceful uprising against which the world was united, where the Syrian regime managed to distort it and turn that peaceful face into a violent and bloody one.

PART II

Back,Yazan Rabee, The Netherlands/Syria, 2022, 7 min.

Documentary, Arabic with English subtitles

A chase, footsteps closing in; as you approach your house, it moves further away. This is a recurring nightmare, shared by many Syrians who have fled their homeland. At night they find themselves back in their hometowns, running, chased by invisible men. They’re looking for a safe place they can never reach. BACK dives into this nightmare to examine where it stems from. Did the trauma start at the protests against Bashar al-Assad, like it did for director Yazan Rabee? Or do we have to go back further to the terror during the reign of Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad?

Would You Play it Again, Ammar Obeid, Germany/France, 2021, 20 min.

Documentary, English and Arabic with English subtitles 

Mudar is a Syrian actor, flew to Germany by a visa from Beirut, he researches refugee’s journeys of refugees who came walking on their feet, for his theater play and explores the real experiences that immigrants lived throughout their road. After his meeting with a Syrian filmmaker Ammar Obeid, Mudar wants to stand naked outside in the cold of his backyard.

Becoming Iphigenia, Reem Al Ghazzi, Syria/UK/KSA, 2023, 67 min.

Documentary, Arabic with English subtitles

Before taking the stage, a group of young Syrian women acting in a work of documentary theater must unravel the legacy of patriarchy in their upbringing – all while making their lives anew in Germany and coming into their own.

The Way Home, Wael Kadlo, Syria/Lebanon, 2018, 64 min.

Documentary, Arabic with English subtitles

Through his quest to better understand the shredded state of his family, Wael questions the long-lasting socio-political crisis in Syria. In 1980, I was born in Syria coinciding with the launch of a project aiming to build an international highway only a few meters away from my house – a bridge that would separate the city from its poor suburb. In 1985, I met my father for the first time and realized that the woman I always called “mother” was in fact my grandmother. A conflict had arisen between her and my biological mother over my custody. A few years later my journey fighting cancer started with several false diagnoses and delayed treatment at governmental hospitals. In 2000, I asked about and searched for my biological mother and our family history. But my attempts to confront and understand my past shook the stability that each member of the family had created. In 2013 I fled to Lebanon and continued my family research with the conviction that cancer, family dismantlement, and urban transformations are a mere metaphor of our present general social and political crisis.

Filmmaker Biographies:

Reem Al-Ghazzi is a Syrian Artist. She has directed and produced several short films individually and as part of collectives. Her films have received awards at the Casablanca International Film Festival and the Alexandria Film Festival and have been screened at the Cinéma du réel in Paris and the Locarno International Film Festival. Al-Ghazzi has also published several articles and texts in local and Arabic websites/newspapers. In 2010, she established the Stories Film Lab, in Damascus.

Afraa Batous graduated from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Aleppo with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 2008. She directed her first performances at the theater in Aleppo. In 2013, she moved to Beirut and shot her first short documentary film. Two years later, she was invited to the Dubai International Film Festival at the official competition for her first feature documentary, “Skin,” and was awarded the Jury Prize at the Arab Film Festival in Malmö, Sweden. She also received the Hans and Lea Grundig Prize for Visual Arts. In 2022, Afraa Batous graduated with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the Babelsberg Konrad Wolf Film University in Potsdam where she completed her second feature documentary ALL ROADS LEAD TO MORE. The film had its world premiere at Dok-fest München May 2023 and TV premiere on ZDF das kleine fernsehspiel.

Yazan Rabee (1994) was born in Syria and fled to the Netherlands in 2016, with the singular goal to become a filmmaker. He had no plan B. Six years later he graduated from film school and went on to release two short films nearly simultaneously: fiction short, “Beyond the Sun,” about the brainwashing program of the Syrian regime, and “BACK,” an introspective documentary about a recurring nightmare shared by many Syrians who have fled their homeland. In his work, which spans the range from fiction to documentary and often intertwines the two, he chooses to focus on mentally and socially damaged persons, often drawing from his own memories and dreams.

Born in Damascus, Syria in 1973, Meyar Al Roumi studied and worked as a photographer before traveling to Paris where he studied cinema at the University Paris VIII and FEMIS from which he graduated in 2001. He has worked as a director of photography on a number of documentary and fiction films in France and in Syria including: Flood in Baath Country (Omar Amiralay, 2003), Blue-Grey (Mohammad AL-Roumi, 2004), Contre la Montée (Damien Bertrand, 2003), Transit (Bani Khoshnoudi, 2004), among others.

He has also directed a number of documentaries, including, A Silent Cinema (Sinama samita, 2001), Waiting for the Day (Thilal al-Ayyam al-Ramadiyya, 2003), and Le Club de l’avenir (Nadi el-Mustaqbal, 2006). In 2007, he completed a feature-length documentary that paints the portrait of a few taxi drivers in Damascus: Six Ordinary Stories.

Meyar Al Roumi has also directed fiction films, including The Voyage of Rabeya (Rahlat Rabeya, 2005) and Journey (Rahleh, 2011). He recently completed his first feature-length fiction film, Round Trip. In 2022 he finished his second feature-length fiction film The Return.

Ammar Obeid was born in 1993, in Alswayda, Syria. SInce 2017, he is based in Berlin, where he currently works as an independent artist exploring visuals and sounds, through mediums such as short and documentary films, image making as well as experimental music. His work focuses on complex questions about migration, integration and the influence and effects of trauma on individuality, human behaviors and communication.

Obeid holds a bachelor’s degree in Japanese literature from Damascus University. This has been one of the main elements that has influenced and improved his practice as an artist. Currently his focus is on the production of the film “I was here,” which tells the story of a Syrian migrant through Japanese instruments of storytelling using the mediums of Ghibli.

Wael Kadlo is a Syrian filmmaker born in Damascus, Syria in 1980. He relocated to Beirut in 2013 where he continues to practice his career in filmmaking. With a degree in French literature from the University of Damascus, Kadlo started his career as a theater actor during his university years, as well as taking part in a number of independent plays including ‘Very Crazy Dead,’ ‘Thespians,’ ‘Departure no.1,’ ‘The Magical Broom,’ ‘The Wedding,’ and ‘The Caravan.’ Following that, he participated in several workshops in directing, editing and cinematography under the supervision of directors Ghassan Salhab, Mohammed Sweid, Hala Abdullah and Rania Estefan. Kadlo also worked as an assistant director, cameraman and consultant for several movies. His previous film ‘Wound’, won the Aan Korb Festival award in 2014.

A Syrian Belgian filmmaker and Choreographer, Eyas Almokdad holds a Master’s in Audiovisual Arts (Film) from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) 2021, an Advanced master’s degree in Audiovisual Arts from Luca School of Arts Brussels, Belgium 2013. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts – Ballet Department in Damascus – Syria in 2005.

Samer Najari (1976, Russia) was born in Moscow to a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother. He began his studies in architecture at the Uni­versity of Damascus at the age of 18. Since immigrating to Canada in 1994, he has completed a BFA in Film Production at Concordia Uni­versity. In 2001, he took part in a two-year residency at the Le Fresnoy – Studio National des Arts Contemporains in France. Since his return to Canada, Samer Najari has directed two internationally acclaimed short films. 

Born to a Syrian father and a Belgium mother, Émilie Serri is a Montreal based filmmaker and installation artist. Distributed by LightCone in Paris, her work has traveled in festivals internationally and in artist centers and galleries throughout Canada. In 2018, she won the Bronfman award in contemporary art. Her first feature film -Damascus Dreams- premiered at IFFR in the Bright Future category in 2021 and won the international critics’ award (FIPRESCI) at FNC in Montreal.

Tags: