The War Show (2016)

April 22nd, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Andreas Dalsgaard, Obaidah Zytoon l Doc l Denmark, Finland, Syria  l 100 min.

Writers/directors Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon have created a very private diary of the Syrian war, which has so far cost 400 000 lives and displacement of 11 million citizens. The emergence of Isis brought the Superpowers into the conflict, but after five years of fighting, no end is in sight.

When the Arab Spring reached Syria, radio DJ Obaidah Zytoon picked up her video camera and started filming what would become one of the bloodiest conflicts of the region. THE WAR SHOW is first and foremost the director’s personal diary, along with her friends: the poet Hisham (who was madly in love with law student Lulu); drummer Rabea Amal, an activist; dental student Argha and Houssain, who studied architecture at the outbreak of the war. Three of them would lose their lives, the rest would end up in European exile.

Told in seven chapters (Revolution, Suppression, Resistance, Siege, Memories, Frontlines and Extremism) and an epilogue, this war diary starts, like any student film, in the Sixties: the participants wanted fun, fewer restrictions and the abolishment of a dictatorship. But the dream of freedom turned very quickly into a horror show, because the Assad regime fought against their own population, using starvation as a weapon.

Zytoon’s group followed the war to her hometown of Zabadani, where the killings multiplied and the viciousness of the conflict increased: the tone of the video changes dramatically, the “playing” at having a revolution had become deadly serious. When the group reaches Homs, the capital of the uprising, Zytoon films wounded and dead children – it all became too much, “it pierced by spirit”. Later in 2012, Rabea was found shot dead in his car, Hisham was kidnapped by the security forces, Argha arrested and Houssain tortured to death in a police station.

In Zabadani, Zytoon’s Syrian odyssey finally comes to an end: confronted by Islam Caliphate forces, the forerunner of Isis, she is forced to flee: the Muslim soldiers refuse to be filmed by a woman, shouting “send us a man if you want pictures”. In the epilogue filmed in Istanbul, Zytoon consoles Lulu, who has found images of the murdered Hisham. Amal survives in Istanbul, and miraculously, Argha reaches the Turkish capital, after being released from prison.

Whilst unstructured and often suffering from the – obvious – production difficulties, THE WAR SHOW is a convincing example of cinema verite, shot directly from the heart. It is the story of a great tragedy, filmed from the perspective of a plucky, but in the end, helpless and defeated young woman, who lost her youth and many of her friends in an unwinnable conflict. AS


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