Filmmaker Sean McAllister brings a poignant new documentary to London screens. A 'Bergmanesque portrait of a relationship and love', A Syrian Love Story is a complex depiction of family dynamics against a backdrop of relentless conflict.
When British journalist Sean McAllister arrived in Syria in 2009 on the hunt for a 'meaty' story – it didn't take long for him to find one. He soon met Amer, a Syrian Pakistani left at home caring for his children while his wife Raghda was held as a political prisoner.
Jailed for writing a book about her romance with Amer through the walls of a Syrian prison, their story begins as a powerful tale of forbidden love and revolution – the tragedy of a mother absent from her children and loving husband.
Yet after Raghda's release, as the pressure of the political climate increases, so do the daily struggles for the family as a whole. They're forced to flee to Lebanon, and McAllister's film develops into a portrait of the tragedy of exile for those who long to remain in the homeland.
McAllister follows the family across Europe for the next five years, interweaving intimate footage from his handheld camera with news reports on the burgeoning Syrian crisis. In some ways reminiscent of Jehane Noujaim's 2013 film The Square, McAllister's documentary is impressive in its use of personal, often mundane portraits to comment on the wider political crisis.
"As much a portrait of gender dynamics as of the Syrian crisis and its global repercussions"
As Raghda finds herself torn between fighting for the revolution and keeping her family safe elsewhere – whilst simultaneously dealing with the trauma she experienced in prison – McAllister's film becomes as much a portrait of gender dynamics and marital relations as it does of the Syrian crisis and its global repercussions. A Syrian Love Story paints a picture of a normal family caught in the midst of an extreme and violent revolution, and driven – unwillingly – into refuge.
Whilst, at times it feels that McAllister's growing intimacy with the family means his footage hangs quite heavily on their marital disputes and limits his film's political scope, what A Syrian Love Story draws out is an heartfelt portrait of humanity in crisis: McAllister's is a document of the ongoing refugee crisis – from the other side of the lens.
An important film then, and an incredibly timely one, A Syrian Love Story shows how late we have come to a struggle that was going on long before the Western media turned its glib eye towards it.
The film was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sheffield Doc Fest.
In UK Cinemas 18 September.
|What||A Syrian Love Story review: "a document of the ongoing refugee crisis from the other side of the lens"|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
18 Sep 15 – 30 Nov 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the Syrian Love Story IMDB page|