The concept of the West has always been a malleable one. It included our Arabic brothers and sisters, whose traditions have the same roots as the ones we practice. These connections are more vital now as it is our duty to shelter them in their times of need like today.
Belgian writer-director Philippe van Leeuw takes a look at a family in Damascus. Despite falling on hard times, they still have traces of a dignified, relate-able life. Most of Insyriated or A Syrian Family takes place in Oum Yazan’s (Hiam Abbass) apartment which is habitable if not for the war.
During what seems like the early stages of that war, Oum Yazan’s strategy is to protect her family at all costs. This now includes her maid Delhani (Juliette Navis). There’s also their neighbor Halima (Diamond Bou Abboud) and her baby. The film mostly takes place in one very stressful day.
Despite their situations, Oum Yazan keeps an understandably tight yet loving household. Their predicament worsens when Delhani witnesses Halima’s husband Samir (Mustapha Al Kar) fall under the hands of the sniper. Oum Yazan insists that Delhani keep this a secret, because going after Samir would endanger the whole family.
Van Leeuw keeps the tension high without exaggerating its tone. He also ponders on Oum Yazan’s moral values in deciding who to save and who to leave behind. He does this even during the film’s quieter scenes. It observes her having and organizing family meals while keeping secrets from everyone.
But the film is on her side. The combination of Abbass’ performance and the score highlights Van Leeuw’s sensitive approach to this chamber drama. Bou Abboud, who also appears as a spunky lawyer in last year’s The Insult, is one revelation of many that we see in this ensemble film.