Monday, 12 February 2018

This man stayed in Aleppo to make a film as the bombs fell

Image result for Feras Fayyad

 'I didn’t make Last Men in Aleppo to ask people to do something. I made this film to express my personal feeling. I grew up in Aleppo. I know every street, every smell, every wall, the colour of every building. When I put this story in front of an audience, and they get the same feeling about Aleppo as I do, as I’ve had since my childhood, that’s not just a success for the film - that’s a success for us as Syrians. What I wanted most is to show the Syrian war as a personal story.


 Syria doesn’t only need peace, Syria needs justice. There have been millions of people killed, families and children. And there have been people involved in these crimes.

 Talking about justice means addressing war crimes. A huge number of people have been killed or thrown in prison because of their political opinion or their background. These are crimes that should be addressed as war crimes. War criminals should be recognised and taken to court. This must be part of any peace process.

 How can you ask people to come back to their country if they know that the people who were involved in killing their children and families, and who might threaten them in the future, are still there?


I was in jail for eight months. I had heard stories about Syrian prisons and what happens inside them since my childhood, from family, friends, whispers. Growing up, it was our biggest fear, worse than losing your mother. Every year I got older, the fear would grow twice as strong.

 From your childhood, you hear people say that once you’re inside, you will wish to die. And that’s what happened. I wanted to be killed, because I couldn’t handle more torture, psychological or physical.

 They took my food away, they put electricity on my body, they beat me. They try to make you lose your dignity. But I realised however scared I was of them, they were ten times more scared of me. As a filmmaker, they see you as a leader and as someone whom other people follow, whose opinion others listen to. After I realised that, I started to release myself from my fear.
 It was one of my worst experiences. But it was important, because I saw with my own eyes how people are killed and tortured. I heard the voices and the sounds. This government is torturing its own people for their opinions, their expressions, their freedom of speech, their activities and their films.

 For years and years these people have wanted to build a wall around Syria, to stop the international community and politicians from seeing what is going on. They don’t want to open anyone’s eyes to it.


 There’s a moment in the film when the characters are sitting on a roof, looking at all the destruction. It’s then that beauty starts to be created, through their friendship, their care for each other. These are human values. All our history we have fought for them. All the time we have been threatened by a regime or a system which tries to break down these kinds of relations and make us lose trust.

 I want to show that human relationships have been the only way to survive, and to survive for years, under Assad, father and son. Our friends and our families is how we make our lives continue.

 I search for hope and the best of humanity, because I have seen the ugly side. I’m motivated to use what I can do as an artist, to understand human values through these characters volunteering as White Helmets. I wanted to understand what makes them stay. The meaning of displacement through history is important to me. What makes some people leave and some people stay?

 The guilty survivor is a part of it. You feel you survived and you have to do something for others.


I am working on a film about a group of female doctors in Syria who established an underground hospital to save lives.

 Cinema is always representing women as a beautiful bodies, or as queens, or as victims. This film is about these women being no different from men in that position. Whether man or woman or transgender - that’s just our sexual or gender identity. That’s nothing to do with what we can do or make in this life.

 I am thinking about Lady Macbeth a lot, about the conflict between her independence and her being controlled, by society or by a male character. This project is also about seeing #Metoo in a different way. It’s not just a social media movement. It’s about practical, real change, in unique circumstances. I hope these women’s position as doctors in a war like the Syrian war starts a discussion.'

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