Hands Up Foundation is now Action Syria

Nezouh – Film Screening and Q&A Hosted by Action Syria CEO, Rose Essam

Author: Saami Tajeddin

To celebrate refugee week, Action Syria was proud to host Syrian director, Soudade Kaadan, for a screening of her new film Nezouh and a follow up Q&A. The film provides a creative approach to the Syrian conflict, delivering a powerful message through beautiful imagery and human characters. During the Q&A Kaadan told us that she didn’t want to make another ‘war film’ focused on violence. She’s managed that masterfully, producing a life-affirming coming of age story through dark humour and magical realism.

Nezouh follows a traditional Damascene family stuck in the darkness of their home, dealing with the everyday hardships of conflict. The protagonist, Zeina, is an imaginative teenager who lives with her overbearing father, Motaz, and thoughtful mother, Hala. Their lives are changed when falling bombs tear holes through the walls and ceiling of their home, exposing them to the outside world. Light and colour enter the house, and Zeina finds a kindred spirit in Amer, a boy from the neighbourhood. Together they dream of the sea and their futures beyond the conflict.

The concept of nezouh, which mean displacement in Arabic, is central to the film. It shows the difficulty of leaving your home and the question of what makes home. This message is particularly apt during refugee week and gives the audience some insight into the emotional conflict involved in displacement. Motaz’s fatherly instinct is to stay and protect his family, an outlook that becomes increasingly strained as his wife and daughter yearn for freedom. He is complex and profoundly human, traits shared by every character in the film. It can leave you in no doubt that the simplified and dehumanised narratives we often witness describing refugees are callous and politically motivated. A whole spectrum of relatable, human emotions are played out in this film, in the most wonderous way. The humour adds to this humanising effect, in the words of Kadaan: “you laugh with people you feel equal with”. From a Syrian family myself, this feels very familiar, as it is quintessentially Syrian to use laughter to resist hardship. Ultimately, you can decide for yourself how you feel about the characters, although it’s difficult not to relate to them as they grow and change throughout their journey.

The tone is beautifully gentle and reflective. The cinematography, by Hélène Louvart, is particularly striking, as if every moment could be taken, framed, and put on the wall. The magical realist scenes give it a wonderful, dreamlike quality, rich in symbolism. These elements come together to create a film which stays with you.

The final test for Nezouh was our audience, who shared observations and asked engaging questions. Many Syrian guests were amazed to find out the film was shot in Turkey rather than the Syrian streets they thought they recognised. This is a true testament to Kaadan and her team’s attention to detail. Soudade provided fascinating insight into the process of making a film during Covid, working with first time actors, and connecting people from across the Syrian diaspora. The theatre applauded her honest, elegant, and powerful storytelling.

Nezouh is important because it shows the story of the Syrian conflict through human eyes. There are no victims, heroes, or villains, just people facing the cards they are dealt. It is an example of Syrians reclaiming their image, showing the humans often overlooked by the suffering seen in the news. Ultimately, it is a story of hope and freedom.

Author: Saami Tajjedin

Missed it? Find Nezouh screenings here.

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