In April 2011, one month after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on protesters led to an all-out uprising against the regime, the Syrian film collective Abounaddara (an Arabic slang term for "a man with glasses," often used to refer to members of the professional classes) began to make and distribute short, powerful videos highlighting the struggles of ordinary people from all sides of the conflict. Four years later, with over 220,000 dead and the addition of ISIS militants on the scene, the bloodshed shows no signs of ending. Undaunted, Abounaddara has continued to post new shorts to their site each Friday and to rack up international honors (including the Grand Jury prize for short film at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and inclusion in this year’s Venice Biennale).
Far more than simple documents of the horrors of war, these videos show Syria and its people in a light far removed from the grainy shots of roadside bombs and shaky images of protests. Carefully edited and often shot in high definition, the videos focus on emotional depth and honesty rather than violence. They act as a foil to the gory recruitment videos of ISIS and its ilk.
Suffering inevitably seeps in around the edges of the frames, though, giving each video a quality of what the collective’s spokesperson Charif Kiwan calls “emergency cinema.” The phrase refers not only to the state of Syria itself but to that of its international image, ravaged by the onslaught of negative media depictions over the past several years. The videos here are made for viewers beyond as well as within Syria’s borders, although the message for both audiences is the same: Syria is more than a country at war with itself, more than the site of great violence. For many people, it is home.
In lieu of highlighting a specific video, we’ve posted a selection of shorts from different stages of Abounaddara’s short history. To see all their videos, check out the group’s site here or their Vimeo channel here.