It’s a unique thing when you really stop and wonder at the genuine power of cinema because no matter where anyone turns their camera to, we can see how closely we share so much of the stories that are out there to be told.
In a weeklong series, the TIFF Bell Lightbox turns the focus on to the cinema of Syria with Syria Self Portraits: Chronicles of Tyranny, Chronicles of War a collection of films highlighting what life is like inside these borders. Kicking off tonight with a collection of fascinating and enlightening shorts introduced by Kay Dickinson, author and professor of film studies at Carlton University. This is followed up on the Saturday with Stars In Broad Daylight by director Ossama Mohammed; a film which puts the nature of the countries patriarchal state in a very critical light and is still banned from being screened in Syria. It’s funny because in many ways while the movie does make some direct political statements, it also has moments where it plays like “My Big Fat Syrian Wedding” and is actually quite funny. It is yet another shining example of how the art of storytelling can truly transcend cultural and language boundaries.
Granted it’s not all fun and games as the retrospective also has more works from director Ossama Mohammed and some emotional tales about the complexities of family, the horrors of war and the genuine struggles of being forcibly displaced from somewhere you call home.
I’ll admit that at first glance in the comforts that a city like Toronto has to offer it’s hard to put yourself into these kinds of narratives but when you look closer at the core of these films, we get to see themes like love, happiness, importance of family rise to the surface. We tell these stories every damn day. It serves as a reminder that in a world where we keeping putting barriers up to protect ourselves from things and people we THINK we don’t understand, we should actually be tearing them down. Once we really get a chance to look at each other, something the art of the moving image does so well we are none of us all that different from each other. People next door have the same problems, hopes and dreams as people who live in countries that are oppressed and war torn…it’s just that simple.
I’ll admit that these films won’t necessarily be for everyone but for any genuine film enthusiast out there, these are films that are just culturally fascinating and serve as yet another reminder of how universal the art of filmmaking and storytelling truly is and it makes for some truly engaging cinematic fare.
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