Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

Cries from Syria

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

Cries from Syria

Article excerpt

Cries from Syria (2017), dir. Evgeny Afineevsky

As the Syrian Civil War enters its 7th year, one would hope that the world is aware of the details of this terribly destructive crisis, but some have no doubt become desensitized by the constant barrage of news about it. This film does not permit us that distance; we are denied the ability to ignore the war or the human damage it has caused.

The film accomplishes this through a combination of personal cell phone videos that document the events of the last seven years, as well as contemporary interviews with survivors. Kholoud Helmi (above), who acts as the onscreen narrator of much of the film, was at the screening in Park City where she spoke through tears and anger about the need for others to hear this story. The Syrian people feel abandoned by the world, and as the interviewees tell their stories the viewer's heart breaks. In particular, when children are interviewed, one is struck by the horror through which they have grown up, and the ways they have been forced to normalize it. The children pump and carry water during the blockade of Aleppo; eat tree leaves when they run out of food; draw pictures of the airstrikes; and recount the deaths of their family members. The now iconic footage of the recovery of the body of three year old Alan Kurdi appears at the beginning and end of the film, and the film does not flinch from showing the devastation that the war has inflicted on the most innocent. A little girl says, "I know God loves children, so I pray to him to help us." All the people pray to God for help, and hold fast to their faith, but they cannot understand why God has not intervened. "Aren't you afraid of God? You call yourselves Muslims?," an angry man cries as he shows the bodies of children; he is addressing Bashar AlAssad directly. …

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