Thursday July 31, 2014

Abounaddara: Syria's anonymous filmmakers at New York's New Museum


A still from the Abounaddara film, "Everything is under control, Mr. President"/Abounaddara Collective

In April of 2011, a group began posting videos online from Damascus -- videos of the war in Syria. They've continued to document the conflict ever since. The anonymous filmmakers work individually, but share their work as a collective, known as Abounaddara, which translates roughly to "The Man With Glasses."

Now, Abounaddara's films are part of an exhibit of Arab art on display at New York's New Museum.
Charif Kiwan is a member of Abounaddara. He recently fled Syria, but has carried on as the collective's spokesperson in New York. "The viewer considers the Middle East, Syria in particular, as a permanently complicated and violent place, where everyone will end up killing each other because of religion, sect, and even tribe. So we wanted through our films to show individuals who, like all of us, are negotiating complex sets of social, political, familial and religious pressures," he tells guest host Helen Mann.

Most of their films show how individual people are managing to live through the revolution, he says. While they generally are successful at maintaining their anonymity, Osama al-Habali, a 25-year-old member of the collective, was was arrested in 2012, while filming. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Mr. Kiwan tells Helen that he will be going back to Syria, despite the risks. "I don't have a choice. My country is Syria. We have to build a new country. And we'll do it."

The New Museum exhibition is called Here And Elsewhere and runs July 16th through September 28th.

Below is an example of Abounaddara's work, called The Smiters for Damascus: