Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, Return to Homs (Sunday, November 9, 12.30pm, Annexe Theatre) follows the journey of two young men- close friends whose lives have been upended by the conflict in Syria.
This is an extract from a recent interview with Director Talal Derki:
What is Return to Homs about?
Talal Derki: “The movie is about the Syrian citizen who challenged everything and everyone to demand freedom. It portrays the challenges that citizen was going through, the changes [in the revolution], and how the new Syrian citizen will negotiate these changes. It’s a movie about war and the pressure of being in a battlefield.
It’s a movie capturing the actions, reactions, and challenges [of the war] and how Syrians reacted to the situation. We wanted to film the story of our country, a clear story of historical events that took place, to make a movie that answers many questions about the Syrian uprising.”
How did you manage to transform your idea into a movie given the current situation in Syria?
Derki: “The idea of the movie developed while we were documenting what journalists weren’t able to document, knowing that it was getting harder for them to cross into Syria. We spent most of our time documenting and videotaping the events taking place.
Some [of the filmmakers and other social media activists] were documenting with mobile phones, others with small cameras; at some point, everyone was documenting.
When I got to Homs and met Abdul Basset al-Saroot, I was inspired immediately. I knew it: he was the personality that I had been looking for, a courageous 19-year-old man, full of character and charisma. He could bring the people closer to him in a second, and everyone loved him and appreciated his energy- a public “folk hero” is a good way to describe Saroot. Why a public hero? Because in our history as Syrians, we don’t really have this kind of public folk hero. It’s a rare phenomenon.”
With Syria in the news every day, this is a unique opportunity to see the conflict from the point of view of the Syrian community.