Layla Abyad: Letters to S.

It’s a very fine choice of style, Syrian Layla Abyad has made for her short film made in Switzerland. It works with the personal essay form, it gives an intense atmosphere, her English voice and the shift from English to Arabic is perfect, and the image never ”kills” the text, vive versa. It gives you a glimpse of what it means to be in exile in a Western European country communicating with someone dear to you back home – Sama is online from Damascus, the young woman who is talking and who you never see gives ”advice” on how to survive here in Switzerland, where a demonstration lasts one hour without any conflicts and where you can film it all, if you wish. On her way round in the country in the middle of Europe she attends a meeting with Swiss citizens, who are afraid of muslims…

”Where do I start to explain to this nice, polite old man that I have statistically more odds and reasons to fear his vote’s support for the arms industry than he has to fear the underground fanatics already killing way more Syrians than Swiss”, a quote from the very well composed commentary in a film, that ends up with words to Sama in Damascus on what to do when ”they” interrogate her and if torture is to be used…

On the production background: …5 well-known filmmakers from Syria, Palestine, Israel, Ukraine and Russia were invited to Winterthur for 5 weeks. Together with Swiss film students, they realised a short documentary about the theme „Exile“. The result is a documentary with 5 episodes and 5 personal, touching, yet provocative views of Switzerland.

Switzerland, Syria, 11 mins., 2015

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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