documentary 52'

English, French, Arabic

 

director / writer

DIRK VAN DEN BERG

''Do you know why I paint? Writing is too transparent, pictures are more ambigious and difficult to decipher.''

This is what a prominent Syrian artist told us shortly before the 'Arab Spring'. Her country from the outside always looked like a place where the power of dictatorial oppression was somehow counterbalanced by the power of culture. Yet, a lot of seemingly "critical" art was part of a system Syrians call tanaffus, or breathing. <<You think that you're not alone - but after a moment of release of pressure, you return to normalty without thinking about change.>> This is how regimes placate artists and critics.

Six years into civil war, for Syrians every day is an fight between life and death. Art seems to be their least necessity, and most artists have escaped the country. Yet some persist and have stayed.

This film will show how their art - not only the objects but their work as such - gives their peers the hope to continue, day after day, to believe that one day the ordeal will be over. And it will reveal how important their work is for the survival of the people's personal, social and political identities.

We narrate their stories and investigate why they cannot stop painting, scultpting, writing or drawing even while bombs fall around them.

<<One day all this will be over, and we won't know who we are anymore. Art is one of the strongest means to find ourselves as a person and as a people>>, says another artist in his semi-destroyed Damascene studio. His young apprentice adds: <<If it is strong enough, art can heal the wounds on your skin and in your head. This is why I stay.>>

ART AND WAR

artwork "St. John Chrysostome" courtesy of Youssef Abdelke