17 MONTHS - 12 MINUTES
The footage in this video is based on several hours of recorded material that was uploaded by Syrian activists to YouTube between June 2011 and November 2012. Since the start of the revolution in March of 2011, many activists across Syria have documented their own actions as well as attacks and atrocities committed by the Assad regime and its allies.
Initially activists hoped to show people outside of Syria what was unfolding on the ground to disprove the regime’s claim that terrorist groups, many of them foreigners, were taking over Syria with Western help.
The majority of this footage was shot in one Damascus neighborhood: Kafar Sousah which is located south of the Old City. Between June 20th, 2011 and May 22nd, 2016 the Kafar Sousah activists uploaded a total of 1090 clips to their YouTube account. This video is an attempt to trace the origins of the revolution in Kafar Sousah and make sense of what has become a proxy war for regional as well as world powers. It is also an attempt to unbury and reframe a vast archive created by Syrian activists and regime critics - many of whom have been arrested, tortured, killed or displaced.
17 Months - 12 Minutes was finished in September 2017. It is also the last video in a set of three works with Refuge as the second and The Aleppo Room as third part.
It premiered at The Delaware Contemporary in Wilmington, DE in November 2017.
THE ALEPPO ROOM
The Aleppo Room takes place in Berlin, Germany and focuses on a small group of guides most of who have been displaced from Syria. The three Syrian women and one Iraqi man featured here are part of "Multaka." The aim of Multaka is to provide museum tours free of charge to recently arrived refugees. These museum tours generally take place in the Museum for Islamic Art (which is located inside the Pergamon Museum) and the German History Museum.
The guides Zoya, Salma, Rita and Hussam discuss artifacts and art objects not simply based on factual knowledge. Instead, they try to explain why their chosen objects matter to them, how they relate to these objects on a personal, more intimate level and how the current situation of many refugees is echoed in these art objects.
The Aleppo Room was released in September 2017 and premiered at the Museum for Islamic Art in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin in January 2018.
The footage for the video was shot in May and June of 2016 while I was at the artist residency Die Kolonie in Worpswede, Germany. During that time, I was meeting with refugees most of who had arrived in Germany in October and November 2015. In addition, I met with various organizations, volunteers and activists who are trying to ease the many difficulties these newly arrived people experience on a daily basis.
During meetings with people for this project, no conversations were recorded in audio or video. I took notes during off-camera interviews, but the main goal was to allow each individual to react to my and the camera's presence without having to formulate a response or a particular narrative. The material presented in this trailer is a testimony to each and every person I met on my way and their long, frustrating, promising but always hopeful path to a new life in a foreign country.
Because of the partly abstract nature of the footage, the complicated matter at hand and in the absence of the interviewee's spoken word, I decided to collaborate with sound artist Ezra Teboul. This collaborative project is an audio-visual response to one of the most challenging crises of our times which threatens nations, individuals and our empathy towards those displaced.
Refuge premiered at the Los Angeles Underground Film Forum in October 2016.
When I started working on Rutland in October 2016, I initially planned that it would be a companion piece to my previous experimental film "Refuge" (about the refugee crisis in Germany). But everything changed with the US presidential election.
Rutland and a majority of its community were preparing for the arrival of 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees per year. Only two Syrian families made it to Rutland two days before the inauguration in January 2017. When President Trump signed his executive order to temporarily bar refugees, immigrants and visa holders from 7 predominantly Muslim countries (and indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program), Rutland found itself in a situation that some people had been anxious about since the election: what if the long-awaited refugees do not arrive in the end?
This project is not just about Rutland and its people. It is also an attempt to understand how the United States have changed since the election of Donald J. Trump.
Rutland is expected to be released in April 2019.