Banned Syrian classics and clandestine films to screen in more than 30 venues worldwide as part of DOX BOX Global Day on andaround March 15, the first anniversary of Syria’s uprising.
Damascus-based documentary festival DOX BOX has shelved its 2012 edition amid the ongoing violence in Syria as President Bashar Al-Assad attempts to quash year-old pro-democracy protests.
The event is instead joining forces with more than 30 cinema bodies worldwide to hold a DOX BOX Global Day on and around March 15, the official first anniversary of the uprising.
To date, “solidarity screenings” are scheduled to take place in 32 venues ranging from the Frontline Club in London to the Metropolis Cinema in Beirut and the Spectacle Theater in New York.
Organisers of the event at Damascus-based ProActions Films said in a statement their aim was: “to tell more about Syria, what it is, who we are and maybe give a glance of what actually made the country rise up shouting for freedom.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has estimated that more than 8,500 people have died since the beginning of the protests calling for Al-Assad and his Ba’ath party government to step down.
Launched in 2008 and regarded as the Arab world’s leading documentary festival, DOX BOX usually runs the first two weeks of March in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the port city of Tartous and the current epicentre of the rebellion, Homs, before touring other countries in the region.
Aside from marking the first anniversary of the uprising, March 15 would have also been the closing night of the 2012 edition of DOX BOX.
The DOX BOX Global Day partners include the U.K.’s Reel Festivals group; New York-based, Middle East arts promoter ArteEast; the Network of Arab Arthouse Screens (NAAS), and documentary festivals such as the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the Danish CPH DOX, German DOK Leizig and French FIDMarseilles.
ProAction Films has made a selection of nine Syrian documentaries available for the event – with screening fees and theatrical rights waved.
They include the powerful, 25-minute film Sunflowers (Tournesols - Al-Rastan), capturing pro-democracy protests in the city of Al-Rastan, just north of Homs. Clandestinely shot late last year, it gives a rare insight into events in the locked down region of Homs.
Two banned films from the late Omar Amiralay are also in the line-up: Everyday Life in a Syrian Village [pictured], a critique of the land reforms of the 1970s, and A Flood in Ba’ath Country, an exposé of Ba’ath Party policies through the example of the fated Zayzun Dam that collapsed in 2002 killing dozens of people.
In a similar vein, Oussama Mohammad’s 1978 Step by Step, examines the trend for Syrian peasants to join the army to escape rural poverty.
More recent documentaries include Nidal Al-Dibs’ Black Stone, about a group of Damascus children who scavenge for scrap metal to make ends meet; Meyar Al Roumi’s Six Ordinary Stories, a portrait of life in the Syrian capital city as told by six cabdrivers; Joude Gorani’s poetic trip down the Syrian Barada River Before Vanishing; Reem Ali’s banned Zabad, about a couple torn between leaving the country and remaining to care for a schizophrenic relative, and Rami Farah’s Silence about the impact of the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights.