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A night of Syrian films to mark March 15
Amiralay's 'Everyday Life in a Syrian Village,' Photo courtesy of Mohamed Soueid.
Amiralay's 'Everyday Life in a Syrian Village,' Photo courtesy of Mohamed Soueid.
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BEIRUT: Had things gone as planned, DOX BOX, Syria’s international documentary film festival, would have staged its fifth edition in Damascus this past week. The closing night of that event would have been March 15, which also happens to be the date chosen to designate the start of the present insurrection in Syria.

Since the fifth edition of DOX BOX had to be cancelled, ProAction Films, the nonprofit film group that organizes the festival, and several international collaborators – principally the New York-based ArteEast and the Network of Arab Arthouse Screens – will stage “DOX BOX Global Day.” This program of Syrian documentary films is being screened simultaneously in 32-odd venues around the world from March 14-16.

The program includes eight Syrian documentary films from the 1970s to today, including works by senior filmmakers Omar Amiralay (1944-2011) and Oussama Mohammad. It also includes works from the younger generation – Nidal al-Dibs, Meyyar al-Roumi, Reem Ali, Joude Gorani, Rami Farah and one of the most recent works to be produced, “Sunflower,” directed by a young filmmaker who shall remain anonymous for his or her safety.

In Beirut, Metropolis Cinema-Sofil will participate in DOX BOX Global Day by projecting two films on March 15. The first work, at 7 p.m., will be a surprise film, selected by the organizers. This will be followed by Amiralay’s “Daily Life in a Syrian Village” (1974), a groundbreaking work of lyrical documentary by Syria’s master of the form.

Amiralay’s oeuvre is without peer in the Arab world. A dissenting leftist whose early work was supportive of Baath Party policies in his country, he later included the Syrian regime among the subjects upon which he cast his critical, highly ironic lens.

He became one of the points of reference for those who created DOX BOX. He died in February 2011, just as the Arab Spring had begun in Tunis and Egypt and he publicly stated his support for the protests there.

Since it was launched in 2007, DOX BOX had run annually in Damascus, Tartous and Homs during the first two weeks of March and toured other Arab cities as part of a Pan-Arab Cultural Network.

“It’s March 15th, the anniversary of the Syrian Revolution, and the closing night of the “missing” DOX BOX edition,” read a ProAction Films statement. “So, here we are, carrying the best of Syrian documentary films to screen parts of the Syrians’ lives back from the seventies, and to tell more about Syria, what it is, who we are, and maybe give a glance of what actually made the country rise up shouting for freedom.”

“DOX BOX Global Day” films will be held Thursday at 7 and 8 p.m. at Metropolis Cinema-Sofil and will be free to the public. For more information see www.dox-box.org and www.metropoliscinema.net.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 15, 2012, on page 16.
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