Throughout 2011, the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, were defined by footage of protesters singing and chanting slogans like “salmiyyah!” (“We are peaceful”) or “al sha’ab yureed isqat al nizaam” (“The people demand the fall of the regime”). Since then, these iconic images and videos of protesters defiantly standing in front of armed security forces have largely been forgotten by many, especially when it comes to Syria.
It is this type of footage that is at the center of the newly released film, “The War Show,” produced by POV. The filmmakers, Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard, use video Zytoon and her circle of friends filmed from the beginning of the uprising in 2011 through 2012, in Damascus, Homs, Zabadani, Kafranbel, and several other places in Syria. The clips are pieced together to show how quickly the protests escalated into something beyond an uprising. We see the protests the friends attended. We see them dream of a different future, and go on road trips together. We see other Syrians providing shelter to Zytoon and her friends, hiding them as they run away from security forces.
As the protests go from hopeful to dangerous, the film gradually takes a grim turn. Zytoon films several scenes of security forces publicly beating and killing civilians, as well as children talking about family members they lost to violence from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Funerals become larger, and the regime becomes bolder in its willingness to destroy entire neighborhoods, in order to quash the resistance.
Even though Zytoon remains behind the camera, her presence is felt throughout the film as her friends and Syrians she encounters react to her. They also respond strongly to her camera. “In the streets, there was an obsession with talking to the camera…As if sharing the story and screening their wounds would cure them of the pain,” Zytoon observes in 2012. Throughout the film, protesters show the camera their torture scars and bullet wounds.
Amongst all the Syrians in the “The War Show,” there is a palpable desire to talk about their story, what they suffered, and what they lost.
The full documentary is available to stream for free on POV until August. Watch it here: