Sun, May 18, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Homs siege film gets standing ovation


A Syrian woman whose horrifying footage of the siege of Homs was turned into a film by an exiled director was on Friday given a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, a few hours after the pair met for the first time.

Documentary maker Wiam Simav Bedirxan, dressed in a long black dress and red shawl, bent forward, put her head in her hands and had to be comforted by director Ossama Mohammed as the Cannes audience applauded her arrival at the start of the film they made together, Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait.

The meeting marked the close of an extraordinary chapter in each of their lives — in which he escaped Syria with his life, but suffered from survivors’ guilt in exile in Paris and she returned to her family in the besieged city of Homs armed with a video camera.

Ossama, who has twice before brought films to Cannes, said he felt he had been given a second chance when Simav contacted him one day out of the blue from Homs asking what he would do in her position.

Over the following months, Simav sent more and more footage over the Internet to Ossama, who started to construct the film using the images combined with their e-mail exchanges.

In the film, Simav describes how after her return to Homs she finds herself in a flat with “the remains of who I am” and “my old father crying like a cat.”

Each day, she goes out to film protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, shootings, bodies. She also obtains footage from defecting soldiers of torture and killings.

One day, she films two veiled women being grabbed in the street and dragged away by unidentified armed men.

“Will I die of torture in the basement of a militia leader?” she asks.

Eventually, soldiers come to her neighborhood and shout orders for everyone to leave.

“I bid him [father] farewell [and] on legs made of wind I run. A single look back would have killed me. I saw mum fall and she didn’t get up,” she says.

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