| In Conversation with Filmmakers

In Conversation with Thaer Al Shamali

(“Siege”, 2016, Syria, Thaer Al Shamali)

How did you learn about FCI film festival?
From Film free Way website
It was a beautiful opportunity to learn about your festival

It is impressive that you have been able to put so much content together about the brutality of war in such a short film. What is your attitude about film duration and film impact?
I decided to make this film after I saw my friend’s post on Facebook, the post was very sad, He was telling people how a father could not buy milk for his baby! after several attempts he got only a hundred grams
I cried, then I decided to make a film about this tragedy under the brutality of war
I decided that the length of the film should be short for several reasons:
The viewer in our time does not like the long duration of videos “especially the viewers in social media”
So I liked to make the film very short to reach to everyone and to tell them the message that I liked to tell, “The Tragedy of Siege and War”.
I wanted to talk about a specific situation that it is happening daily in Syria
Everyone can watch the news or real videos of bombing coming from wars, but it’s hard to know the human stories that happend with people.
That’s why we made this film
And talk about the oppressed people
Also, in my opinion, the short duration of movies makes their effect last long

Is war a subject that you feel comfortable with? From what point of view do you approach this subject and why?
I lived the war with all that details and cruelty
I saw people how were they dying
I saw children screams
I lost most of my friends
I lost my father, he died due to shelling by government forces
I saw so many innocent people how were they dying
So I was very much affected by the war
I think it is my duty to help people “at least tell the world what is happening there in Syria” with my films
That’s why when I thought about making this and other films
I was making it through my feelings
I made it with my emotions
I was crying sometimes
It’s hard to make a film about injustice and the filmmakers are oppressed

The film raises a question whether the 100 grams of white powder is baby formula or drugs. Did you intend for this uncertainty?
Yes, I wanted to raise the question in the viewer
I wanted him to think this powder is a drug
Then he will surprised that this powdered baby powder
Because already infant formula has become drug-like in besieged areas
Because it became difficult to get
And its price has become very expensive
It is bought only in small quantities not exceeding one hundred or two hundred grams

Did moving to Turkey change your approach to film making, and if so, how?
Yes, it has changed
But I still make war films
I also make films on different topics
Because I came out of the war and began to see the colors of life and my soul began to recover from the pain of war
I made tourist films
I made comedy as well as social films too
Also short commercials etc.

What directors or films have influenced you and how?
Favorite directors:
Christopher Nolan
I love the visual image in his films and also how he manipulates time in his films
In addition to his wonderful career
Also :
Steven Spielberg
Majid Majidi
David Fincher
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Some of movies :
The Hunger Games
Somehow similar to what is happening in Syria and post-revolutionary failures
One of the movies that made me cry
I like movies  that tell us the tragedy of war through a human story

You could have selected a different artform to communicate your ideas such as poetry, painting or still photography. what is it about film that has captured your imagination?
When i was a child I loved watching movies very much and I liked how movies could  influence
When I looked at my father when he made his films, I wanted a lot to get into this art
Also, poetry or other arts maybe more difficult to reach in all sectors of society
Today in every house there is TVs and digital devices
That’s why it’s easy to reach to the most of people and tell our stories

Watching your film, a viewer has a certain experience, and then there is also the impact the film leaves on its audience after it has been seen. What do you imagine that people will want to talk about after they see your film?
I expect someone to criticize the film technically, especially that the movie was produced with a budget of zero dollars.
Someone will talk about the story “Maybe”
But what I want and wish most people to talk about after watching the film about the human in Syria
And the injustice that is happening there
And about the Syrian people who wanted freedom but then was bombed by aircraft by government forces
And after that, the terrorist organizations entered Syria and killed the Syrian people

Is there anything else you want us to know about you as a filmmaker or about this specific film?
I was learning filmmaking by my dad. He was my first teacher
I grew up between cameras and lenses
I will keep making films and remembering my father
He wished to see my films being shown outside my homeland Syria
Today I achieve his dream
He died but he is alive in my heart
I would also like to say that the siege film was made with very simple equipment at zero cost
I would also like to thank you very much, I am very happy for the opportunity  that you gave me in the screening of the film
This interview too.

What is next for you as a filmmaker?
After the siege film
I made two films and won the films several international awards
I continue to prepare for the next work

Thank you very much. It was a great pleasure talking with you.


“December 2019”


Disclaimer: Please note that most artists, filmmakers and authors presented by FCI are not native speakers of the English language. To avoid misinterpretation, it is FCI’s policy to print their responses as received without structural or content changes.

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