The Ritzy hosted Human Rights Watch film festival last week. The closing gala featured the UK premiere of Syrian documentary Return to Homs. The Blog’s Owen Pinnell went down to review the film. This is what he had to say:
“I thought these images of us dying one by one would shake the world but the world stays as silent as a graveyard”.
Speaking directly to us, Ossama, a media activist, sums up the torment of his nation.
This plea cuts across the monotony of rolling news coverage, inviting us on an uncomfortably intimate journey through tragedy.
This is an intensely personal story of a young group of friends, following them as they go from peaceful street protest to armed resistance against the Syrian regime.
Ossama is dashing around Homs capturing everything on his Sony camcorder.
Meanwhile, Basset, “the second best goalkeeper in Asia”, is charismatic and hugely popular with the cities’ throngs of protesters.
He is absolutely certain that the revolution will win. “After all,” he says, “the regime is not immortal.”
Together, they encapsulate all the hope, idealism and sheer youthful defiance of the early days of the Arab Spring.
But the regime lays brutal siege to Homs and soon the only sounds echoing through the streets are birdsong and mortar fire.
The camera follows the protesters through hollowed out buildings which are now providing the only safe passage through the city, its roads occupied by Assad’s tanks.
When the regime massacres the group’s neighbourhood, Khalidya, there is no narrative to help us understand the atrocity.
Instead, we witness a nine-year-old boy dying from bullet wounds, his father crying over his body.
This is a film that stares unflinchingly in the face of human tragedy, stripping the conflict down to the scale of a single community.
It removes what director Talal Derki called “the political soap opera” of the civil war, leaving us with the uneasy feeling that Syria’s suffering is the responsibility of us all.