BEIRUT: “Al-Shaqiqa,” or the sister, a new documentary exploring the complicated historical relationship between Lebanon and Syria, is scheduled to air this week on Al-Jazeera as the channel marks the two-year anniversary of the start of the Syrian uprising.
Although the historical scope of the film stops at 2010, executive producer Wissam Najm told The Daily Star the film gave Arab audiences an important piece of context for understanding the current conflict.
“Everybody is talking about Syria right now ... and every time you talk about Syria, you hear about Lebanon as well, and what we wanted to do was go back in history and see why,” Najm said. “[The film] shows people that Lebanon and Syria have a long history together. We go way back in history to when they were one country and after they were separated, which many people don’t agree with.”
While this may not come as news to most Lebanese, Najm said “Al-Shaqiqa” seeks to clarify the fraught dynamic for a broader Arab audience while deepening local understandings of the two countries’ shared histories.
“It’s not going to be a dry history lesson; it’s going to be more details of what people don’t know, or what they may have only a superficial knowledge of,” he said. “Even as a Lebanese, through shooting the film and watching it, I got to learn a lot about the two countries and their history.”
In addition to the logistical challenges posed by the crisis, which prevented the crew from filming in Syria, Najm said producers also found many Lebanese were reticent to discuss the contested issue of Syrian-Lebanese relations, which figures prominently in the March 8 and March 14 rivalry.
“A lot of people don’t want to talk, especially politicians,” Najm said. “Things change, history changes, and political views change, so some people didn’t want to talk because they don’t know what is going to happen, because of what’s going on in Syria.”
Najm said producers strove to present a balanced historical overview, speaking to figures from across the political spectrum.
“Al-Shaqiqa” is on Al-Jazeera’s Arabic news channel March 7 at 4 p.m. local time and with English subtitles on Al-Jazeera World March 12 at 10 p.m.