Born in Syria Review
Review by Adele Matterface
‘At first, I thought the only problem was crossing the sea. Now we’re here… and I see that the problem is much bigger.’
Born in Syria (2016) is the award-winning documentary by director Hernán Zin. The film was screened in the Trowbridge Town Hall building on January 20th, two years after the Town Hall’s exhibition ‘From Syria with Love’, a showcase of paintings made by Syrian children depicting the harsh realities of their lives. The screening of Born in Syria was a great success, with every seat filled with both British and Syrian attendees of all ages.
The event opened with a speech in both Arabic and English designed to provide context for the documentary itself. Before the war began, Syria had been a popular tourist destination, with people flocking to explore Syria’s mixed culture and beautiful geography. The war started in 2011 due to a peaceful anti-regime uprising which spiralled into civil war. The country was torn apart, and families were broken. Women lost most of their rights, and poverty swept the country. According to statistics from the United Nations, the death toll had risen to 500,000 by 2016, and the number of people seeking refuge from Syria had reached 5.4 million people.
Born in Syria was directed by Argentinian Hernán Zin. Over the course of his career, he worked in over 50 countries, directed several documentaries and written many books and articles. His work often centres on the issues surrounding war and poverty. Born in Syria is a raw and emotive film which documents the journeys of seven children, starting with their arrival in Greece. It shows their struggles to find somewhere safe to live, the harsh realities of the conditions in which they are forced to live and the difficulties of gaining refugee status.
The film is not easy viewing. In one shot of a refugee camp, graffiti is scrawled on a wall stating ‘Human Rights Do Not Apply Here’. In another scene, a small boy who had been bombed sits as his burnt flesh is peeled away from his skull, leaving him permanently disfigured. Later on in the film, his guardians discuss the death of the child’s parents and how they must keep it secret from the child in case he ends his own life. A different boy, who has no possessions and is forced to live in the chaos of a refugee camp is given a scooter. The scooter provides him with hope and distraction but it is almost immediately stolen from him. A thirteen year-old girl, who like many British teenagers spends most of her time glued to her phone, describes how the war has affected her and her peers: ‘I’m not like I was before. I was a child. I was innocent. But the war made us grow up’.
The screening of Born in Syria was meant to educate, and by showing it in Trowbridge Town Hall, the charity Wiltshire for Refugees hoped to inspire action within the community. At the end of the event, leaflets were handed out to everyone who attended detailing many ways they could help those in need. These included signing petitions, volunteer work and even hosting a meal in your own home. If you would like to see how you can help refugees in your area please visit https://help-refugees-uk.service.gov.uk/ or add the Facebook group Wiltshire for Refugees. If you missed the screening and would like to see it, it is available to rent on Amazon Instant Video.
Review by Adele Matterface