Talal Derki's 'Return to Homs' wins Middle East Now

Director at Florence film festival,'don't believe regime's lies'

15 April, 19:00

    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - FLORENCE, APRIL 15 - Syrian director Talal Derki's documentary 'Return to Homs' has won the Audience Award for Best Film of the fifth Middle East Now film festival, held in Florence from April 9-14.

    ''Syria is not just Assad or Al-Qaeda. Don't be fooled by the Syrian president's words, because the choice is not between him and religious extremists. There are moderates in the country and they account for about 70% of the population, but nobody is interested in them. No one - and especially not the media - speak about them, since they don't make a good news story,'' Derki told ANSAmed. Shot between 2011 and 2013, the film follows a journey of two friends whose lives have been uprooted by the war in Syria: Basset, 19, a football star and goalkeeper of the national youth team who early on became an icon for the revolution, and Ossama, 24, a pacifist and media activist.

    ''When Assad's army transform their city, Homs, into a ghost town,'' Derki said, ''the two young men decide to take up arms with rebel fighters.'' Born in Damascus, Derki, who has two short films and five documentaries to his name, was forced to leave the Syrian capital in 2012. ''Following the two protagonists and shooting this film was like committing suicide. I am now on the regime's blacklist,'' he said, implying that he can now enter Syria only illegally.

    His 'exile', like that of his family members, is similar to that of millions of Syrians forced to leave their country since 2011.

    Others who worked on the film have also had problems as a result. Ossama continued working as an activist until he was arrested by the regime after being injured and has not been heard from since, said one of the producers of the film, Hans Eisenhauer, who is also in Florence in these days.

    Another producer, Orwa Nyrabia, was arrested because of the documentary and detained for three months before being released in 2012 and forced to leave Syria. Derki noted that the population has become inured to the widespread violence. ''Syrians are used to it,'' he said regretfully. Since the beginning of the year the United Nations have ceased to release official death tolls, as it is impossible to verify the real figure. The film received an award at the Sundance Film Festival and has been making the rounds of others, from London to Istanbul to Florence. Derki said that he was working on another project focusing on ''the psychological effects the war in Syria has produced.'' The effects on the director himself seem clear: suffering, intolerance and fear.

    ''Fear that the next war in Syria will be between the Salafis and the moderates. Fear that the country will turn into another Somalia, and that warlords will be the one to rule,'' he said.


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