Film festivals the world over, are occasions for joy and imaginations. In Syria, and Homs in particular, they are an act of revolution. In besieged Homs, cinema becomes a way out of the blockade, “projecting a different image of those under siege, and portraying what goes on behind the events.” Cinema becomes an important tool of resistance in such times, and films made under siege by people under siege, are a testament to its, and their, strength. Such is the case in the activist-organised Homs Documentary Film Festival.
The Waer neighborhood in Homs, besieged for more than a year, and home to more than 75,000 residents, is playing host to the improvised festivity. “We want to tell the whole world that we are still alive. We live, despite the bombs, despite the hunger, we live life on this earth with all its madness,” reflects one of the festival organisers. The festival becomes an act of defiance against the siege and the regime at the same time: “From a neighborhood that is besieged, freedom calls. From the capital of the revolution, the revolution marches on,” says Iman Muhammad, one of the organisers.
The preparation for the festival started in February 2015, but was not made public until 1 April, on its official Facebook page. Submissions are accepted under certain conditions and are evaluated based on the content and its ability to deliver its ideas to the public, as well as with regards to its artistic and production standards.
Five films were accepted into the competition: “Basil”, “Unknown Soldier”, “Green Trenches”, “A Trigger and a Heart” and “Voyage”. Five more films were screened as guest submissions: “Lovers’ Notebooks”, “Non-Breaking News”, “A Beautiful Idea”, “A Bad Day”, “The Assassination of Aleppo”. The latter was the opening film on 15 April, at Dar al-Salam cultural centre.
The festival was closed on 18 April, a day of certain legacy for the city of Homs. It was on 18 April 2011 that the people of Homs defied the regime in a most courageous fashion. They marched on the central clock square and set up tents in an attempt to create a Syrian Tahrir moment. That night turned into an infamous massacre.
The films looked at different aspects of the Syrian tragedy. Trigger and a Heart, looked at the reasons young men decide to take up arms, highlighting the unbearable losses many of them had to deal with. Voyage, recounted the early days of the uprising in Homs, and Green Trenches, looked at the conditions that armed rebels encounter in their struggle against the regime.
On the final day of the festival, Basil was announced as winner of the first prize, while Green Trenches took the second prize.