Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

by Wiam Simav Bedirxan & Ossama Mohammed.

It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and has been to major festivals like Toronto, cph:dox and idfa. Two days ago it had a theatrical release in 30 cinemas in France, where the exiled Syrian director Ossama Mohammed lives. The reception in France… le Monde writes ”chef d’oeuvre”, masterpiece.

And what could I write but the same, after for months having hesitated to watch because I knew what horrifying images were waiting for me. I do not recall, when was the last time I have been so strongly affected by a film. To an extent that I find it meaningless to line up words to describe what I saw and felt. It would be reviewer clichés after clichés. I can not do so. So you get three brief comments followed by more laconic synopses:

Wiam Simav Bedirxan’s filming in Syria is courageous and heroic. Ossama Mohammed has treated the unique material in an outstanding and personal way. The two have made true Cinema!

“In Syria, everyday, civilians film and are killed while others kill and then film. Safe in Paris, but driven by his inexhaustible love for Syria, Ossama Mohammed finds that he can only film the sky and edit footage posted on YouTube. A chance encounter seems to offer a kind of resolution to the tension between Ossama’s estrangement from his country and the revolution that is raging without him. A young Kurdish woman from Homs sends him an email, asking: ‘If your camera were here, in Homs, what would you be filming?”. Silvered Water is the story of that encounter.” (Proaction Site)

“While in political exile in Paris, the Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed received an extraordinary Facebook message from the Kurdish teacher and activist Wiam Simav Bedirxan from Homs. “If you were here with your camera, what would you film?” Mohammed edited the material Simav shot herself in the besieged city together with excerpts from “1001” cell phone videos of heavy shelling and aerial bombardments. Blood flows – a great deal of blood. Citizens are tortured and executed, and no one can turn a blind eye any longer. But this is more than just a devastating documentary about the tribulations of ordinary Syrians. The reflective commentary also demonstrates what cinema can mean in the face of war. No matter how oppressive the atmosphere, it doesn’t affect Simav’s enthusiasm as she films. The film is dedicated to a little boy named Omar whom she also follows with her camera: a symbol for the future of the country. He skips through the shot, dodging snipers to lay a flower at his father’s grave. “Mom, take a look at how deep this one is,” he exclaims in wonder upon seeing a freshly excavated grave. Meanwhile, back in Paris, Mohammed is struggling with his impotent position as an outsider – yet another reason that these images must be shown.” (idfa site)

There is a great text by Ossama Mohammed on the site of the distributor Doc and Film International, link below. Here is a taster:

“All my life I’ve tried to protect and defend cinema, according to my notion of the medium. For me, it is a particular language, where images and sound can come up with a new take on life, on art and on language. Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, it’s been a revolution of images. I’ve seen thousands and thousands of images. And it’s like the dailies of one big film.

I believed that the images sent by Simav could tell a story. When she appeared in my life, I thought she was the embodiment of a new generation of filmmakers. What I like is when there are different levels of narratives, story upon story. I wanted to respect the people who shot those images as filmmakers, and that’s why it’s a film made by “thousands of Syrians”. The moment I realized that their images were telling a story, I thought I was on the right track.

At the beginning, I rejected the use of voiceover. But as I became a part of this undertaking, of this community of dead poets that are behind the footage, I started accepting the notion of voiceover because it became a multi-layered story, and because I felt it was not explanatory.”

Go also to the facebook page of the film, you will find links to interviews, reviews etc. Previous review on by Sara Thelle.


Syria, 2014, 92 mins.

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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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