“THE WAR SHOW”— Women and the Arab Spring



Women and the Arab Spring

Amos Lassen

Women played an important and fundamental part of the Arab Spring in 2011, however, until this documentary directed by Obaidah Zytoon, we heard little about them. What we see brings us new hope that important female perspectives from the Middle East will now be part of what happened back then. The documentary focus is on Zytoon and her friends during the civil war that they found themselves a part of. What we sew is an authentic snapshot of revolution that introduces Zytoon’s friends with an understandably emotional nostalgia.

Zytoon was once a risk-taking radio broadcaster who attracted a rebellious crowd and was perfectly placed to capture the spirit of a generation desperate for change. We see the friends championing freedom and gender equality, and fearing only God as they campaign for Assad’s demise. The group is basically made up of “artists and educated youngsters who are strongly united by a hatred of subordination and a love for novel experiences.”. Together they go through a series of rites of passage while their lives become dominated by the tragic events that occur following the uprising. These events are divided into seven sections (“Revolution,” “Suppression,” “Resistance,” “Siege,” “Memories,” “Frontlines,” and “Extremism”), and the film moves through seven stages of grief – all caught on whatever recording equipment was on hand. Because of this the film has a raw quality that makes us feel as if in the middle of what the group experiences.

It is often difficult to follow the story of as many people as Zytoon focuses on (approximately nine people and herself). We can excuse this because the film is so emotionally strong. As we watch the film, we really see how difficult it was for them. Yet this is also a look at defiance and we clearly see how truth (and its representation in the media) becomes one of the very first victims of war. Even more important is that we are in a climate in which Syrians seem limited to choosing between starvation and obedience so the images we see here take on an immensely cathartic quality. We see how people in the film are both equip and arm themselves with ideas, a process that is at once both performative and one that helps them deal with their suffering. We also see a side of Syrian society that is quickly falling into the hands of the ISIS movement.

The call for an overthrow of local leadership has affected Syria like few other places in the Middle East. Resistance has resulted in an ongoing civil war that’s become not only the site of human misery but also of geopolitical machinations. From ISIS to the influence of conventional superpowers, the area has been filled with stories that are often too terrible to even think about. The demand for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside was called for by a generation of Syrians looking for more freedom and tolerance. These individuals love their country but are against their political masters and look for a way to make their nation better for everyone. This is what gives “The War Show” its power. That power comes from individual stories that are part of revolution and repression.

The film is a memoir of the last half-decade that is filled with of despair and destruction that’s often heartbreaking. The film s surprisingly free from being polemical or overbearing and is a captivating, moving document of this troubled region. Co-director Andreas Dalsgaard, along with Zytoon give us the disparate footage edited into a workable whole thus providing an exceptional look at a Syrian generation that’s being obliterated by the ongoing civil war.

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