Yasmin Fedda: Ayouni

First the short synopsis of the film, explaining the title and introducing…”Noura and Machi (who) search for answers about their loved ones – Bassel Safadi and Paolo Dall’Oglio, who are among the over 100,000 forcibly disappeared in Syria. Faced with the limbo of an overwhelming absence of information, hope is the only thing they have to hold on to. ‘Ayouni’ is a deeply resonant Arabic term of endearment – meaning ‘my eyes’ and understood as ‘my love’. Filmed over 6 years and across multiple countries in search of answers, Ayouni is an attempt to give numbers faces, to give silence a voice, and to make the invisible undeniably visible…”

… take a look at the photo above: Happiness. Noura and Bassel. A couple in 

 

love. Later you see a video from their engagement party and you hear about the actions taken by the two activists to draw attention to the Syrian regime and its brutalities. Contacts to the media. Together with a BBC journalist we – the audience – watch people being beaten up in the streets. Unbearable footage. 

A quarter of an hour into the film, the location shifts to a mountain area, to the beautiful Mar Musa monastery, not far from Damascus to introduce the priest Paolo Dall’Oglio… let me quote the director Yasmin Fedda from the press material:

„This started as another film. A film about a priest I knew in Syria – Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who had set up a well known monastic community that focused on interfaith dialogue. In 2011, he became involved in the Syrian revolution and passionately called for the world to respond to the atrocities happening in the country, to support human rights. He was expelled from Syria, his home of over 30 years. He was loved by so many Syrians. I met and filmed him in Paris shortly after he had left Syria. We spoke about the situation, his position, his take on things. I didn’t think it would be the last time I saw him, but I knew he was committed to what he believed in, whatever the cost. A couple of months later, in July 2013, he had gone to Raqqa (briefly liberated, before its total takeover by Daesh) to negotiate for the release of journalists kidnapped in the city. He leaves for the meeting and is never heard from again – kidnapped, with only rumours about his fate. Forcibly disappeared… »

What a wonderful man and how beautiful it is to see how his sister and his Italian family start to make videos to put online, to get the fate of the respected Roman Jesuit priest known. 

The sister Machi also joins the London double decker bus that is „decorated“ with photos of just some of the tens of thousands of Syrians, who have been forcibly disappeared during the revolution in the country.

The main focus, however, is on Noura Ghazi Safadi. It hurts to see her change during the years of waiting for news about her husband – from 2015. Noura is a human rights lawyer and activist and « one of the establishing members of Families for Freedom, a Syrian women led advocacy group for detainees and their relatives ».

I take a look at the photo above again. And remember it when I see Noura talking to cameras in front of the double decker that also went to Paris. Or in studios. Or at the end of the film after she had got the news that Bassel had been executed. 

Needless to say that this documentary is emotional to watch, at the same time as it is a documentation of the campaigns performed by human rights activists, the protests, the videos distributed, the compassion from many but not many enough. Respect!

UK, 2020, 75 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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