Alex Mayyasi in Brooklyn Quarterly (Abounaddara logo; Credit: Abounaddara):
When Syrians took to the streets to denounce the rule of President Bashar al Assad in 2011, protesters in the revolutionary city of Homs summarized their goals in a chant: “It’s a Syrian, Syrian Revolution! For freedom and dignity!”
The inability of Syrians to achieve their demands has been well documented. Despite the unifying rhetoric, conflict has divided Syria and fostered sectarianism. Assad remains in power, and the rebels holding Syrian territory include illiberal groups like the Islamic State.
The anonymous film collective Abounaddara fights for another unachieved goal: Syrians’ dignity. The collective’s name means “the man with glasses,” a reference to documentary cinema, which it uses to “defend Syrians’ right to an image that is dignified and independent of political and media agendas.” The collective works to provide an alternative image of Syrian society, different from the prevailing narrative found in government propaganda and mainstream media. Since 2011, the anonymous filmmakers have released a short — 1- to 12-minute — film every week.
The collective has described its work as “bullet films” and its members as “snipers” who sabotage Bashar al Assad’s propaganda through seemingly innocuous films. Many feature regular Syrians telling a story. In Confessions of a Woman—Part Two, a woman describes how the conflict has increased her awareness of sectarianism. Other films such as Who is the Military Fighting? use more artistry, showing a toy soldier crawling through peaceful urban streets…
1. When did the first members of Abounadarra found the collective? Was its founding spurred by a specific event?
It was out of desperation that we launched our collective in 2010. For years each of us had been making films of our own without ever getting any interest from producers or distributors. We absolutely had to change the way our society was represented — a representation monopolized by a tyrannical government and a blind culture industry. And we wanted to believe it was still possible to do that.