Qutaiba Barhamji: La Terre de Gevar

… Gevar, Natasha, Shevan. A family. From Syria, now living in France. English title: Gevar’s Land.

The joy of seeing something grow. Plants, vegetables – at home on the balcony and in the garden. In a scene Natasha looks at her phone and tells Gevar that a town in Syria is being bombed. They are in the garden, Gevar puts down his phone and talks about, when to plant garlic onions. Syria is far away and the two try to establish a new life in France. The gardening plays a key role in that respect. It is lovely to see Gevar drawing on a piece of paper, where to plant potatoes, radis, pumpkins, onions, parsley, coriander, okra…He is happy to be in France and expresses this, when the discussion unfolds among the Syrians at parties and gatherings. Where a friend says that he loves French literature but not to be in France! 

Qutaiba Barhamji follows the family over a year. He is behind the camera, he is close to the family but he does not interfer or asks questions. A clever solution, there are so many films that have been dealing with the tormented country. He is present, at their home and in the garden. He helps with some translation from French to Arabic and catches small but important situations. Which are actually identical to (I was thinking when watching), what my wife and I have experienced in our allotment garden : A neighbour who tells us « ignorants » how to do gardening OR the same neighbour informing us that there is a ban on watering the garden – in the film they water anyway, in our community we do the same. Come on, otherwise the garden will die!

Gevar and his family meet the (French) bureaucracy – nothing special, we have do so as well – the difference is, as he says so precisely, Gevar, that “I can’t control my dreams”, the thoughts he has brought along from Syria. Again the film is not going into this issue, not needed, a film comes from the screen to be formed in the head of a spectator.

We see the pumpkins and are happy on behalf of the family. Alas, they are robbed; the director stays respectfully at a distance, when Natasha breaks into tears, she cries, says the little boy. Gevar gets a job far away from the home and the garden, they talk about moving and giving up the garden. Gevar is taking down the barbecue installment he has built, he stands thoughtfully in the picture in the garden, he has to give up. Sounds like a sad ending, maybe, but there is also a wonderful scene towards the end, where Gevar comes home to Natasha and Shevan after being away for work. A scene full of love and happiness. They will manage their new life in their new country. I hope!

France, 78 mins., 2020

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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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