Thursday 24 November 2016
Sean McAllister | UK, 2015 | 1hr 16 mins | NR | English subtitles
Filmed over 5 years, A Syrian Love Story tells the intimate and poignant story of a family torn apart by the tyrannical Assad regime. Filmmaker McAllister arrived in Syria in 2008, seeking a break from his work in war zones and curious about life in what he calls a “functioning dictatorship”. For eight months he searched for a story that would allow him to get beyond the picture-postcard image of Syria that officials presented to tourists. Then one night in a park in Damascus, he met Amer Daoud who told him: “If you really want to make a film about Syria, come and film me.”
Amer, a member of the PLO, met and fell in love with Syrian dissident and revolutionary Raghda Hasan in a Syrian jail 15 years earlier where they spent months communicating through a tiny hole secretly made in the wall separating their cells. They married and had three children after their release, but when we first meet them – prior to the wave of revolutions and changes in the Arab world – Raghda is in prison for her political beliefs once again. Day by day we witness Amer and the children lavish love on the absent wife and mother; when she is finally released in 2011 as part of an amnesty their joy is overwhelming.
Not long afterwards their position in Syria becomes untenable however, and the family must flee, first to a refugee camp outside Damascus, then to Lebanon, and finally to France where they are granted asylum in the sleepy town of Albi.
But exile takes it’s toll, far more on Raghda, who finds she cannot reconcile deserting her comrades to live at a distance from the revolution she had longed for and worked so hard towards. McAllister becomes both chronicler and confidante as we witness Amer and Raghda’s relationship fall apart.