How to film the human toll of war? As technology proliferates and the means to record one’s own experiences are more accessible than ever, each new hostility and crisis of displacement brings with it a deluge of documentaries. It’s perhaps only natural that there has been a move away from the pretense of making the definitive film of any conflict, toward more personal, fly-on-the-wall windows into the lives of those afflicted, given the sheer volume of output. Such films often leave political analysis in the background, but become all the more devastating for it, as we are immersed in the experiences of individuals we are brought to intensely identify with, in their most basic desire for the fundamental conditions of sustained community and security.
Some of the year’s strongest documentaries on the Syrian war are of citizens under siege, each as compelling and heartbreaking as the next in depicting fortitude under desperate conditions. It’s not a case of choosing between them for «the one» to see — each in the very singularity of their protagonists grabs one’s worthwhile attention. Tim Alsiofi shot his short Douma Underground while sheltering in a basement with loved ones from barrel bombs. Waad al-Kateab recorded five years of resistance in For Sama (on which Edward Watts shares directing credit), getting married and giving birth while holding out in Aleppo under constant danger. And, from director Feras Fayyad, following his film on the White Helmets Last Men in Aleppo, there is now The Cave , which shows the daily struggles of a female doctor and hospital manager in rebel-held eastern Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus, as bombardments strike and Russian planes swarm overhead.
Dr. Amani Ballour
If cinema is indeed an …
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