Willemien Sanders
Dr. Willemien Sanders, lecturer, department of media and culture studies, Utrecht University.

Three films draw a line between war and a parallel world, not of peace, but of a kind of limbo upon which war encroaches or that exists alongside the fighting.

Parallel worlds

War is messy. We all know the famous quote usually attributed to Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC): “In war, truth is the first casualty”. Be that as it may, sometimes small stories tell us more than feature films and documentaries. Zooming in on a detail, they bring out a truth that escapes the grand narratives, if only because they have to share such a narrative with many other stories.

9 days from my window in Aleppo

One morning in August 2012, Syrian photographer Issa Touma saw young men lugging sandbags into his street. Touma grabbed his camera and spent nine days holed up in his apartment, recording what was happening outside. The result? An unprecedented glimpse into a war that has been raging for three years now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THdMj0-LmRw

9 days from my window in Aleppo records the first days of war in a street in Aleppo, shot by photographer Issa Touma with a brand new video camera. From his window he records the youngsters who suddenly appear and start building a bulwark of sorts and start firing at some distant or close enemy. They seem unprepared and this could go anywhere. The film seems to record random scenes. Touma had to be careful and selective as his camera might run out of electricity, available irregularly in a city at war, co-director Thomas Vroege recounted at the screening of the Film at the Netherlands Film Festival. In a few days, Touma sees the youngsters replaced by grown ups wearing proper war gear. That is when he realizes the events have turned into a more serious war now; these guys are not likely to give up or leave soon. The film is edited with inter-titles counting the passing days. War doesn’t just ‘happen’ or ‘arrive’ here. It starts somewhere in limbo, with indeterminate actions, by people who seem unaware of what they are getting into and who, possibly without realizing it, pave the way for something worse. As a Christian, Touma decides not to take sides and switches off his camera.

9 days from my window in Aleppo. Director: Floor van der Meulen, Thomas Vroege, Issa Touma

The Sniper of Kobani

The Sniper of Kobani is a portrait of Haron, a Kurdish fighter who came to the Syrian town of Kobani to end the IS occupation. Haron works as a sniper, amidst the enormous ruins of the city. In his hide-out, he reflects on his hopes and nightmares.

The Sniper of Kobani tells the story of Haron. He has left his home to fight IS, one bullet at the time. In the beginning of the film, we see him enter a barber shop. He as welcomed as a brother and the barber asks him many questions. Initially he answers, but then it comes to  his ‘job’ and casualties; things we are all curious about, such as how many he killed and who they were, but the Sniper remains silent. However, as the film unfolds, in voice over he recounts his story as we see him roam Kobani, a city in ruins. Staged or not, this editorial choice circumvents a traditional interview format while still posing a number of questions at him and contextualizing the answers.

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