By : Jessica Hill
Adam, a short film that tells the story of how the conflict in Syria affects a man living in Abu Dhabi, is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this month.
Like thousands of others in the UAE, Adam works long hours to send money home. He dreams of reuniting with his wife and newborn daughter in Syria, but the tragedy enveloping the country changes everything.
Adam, which will be screened at the French festival’s Short Film Corner, was written and directed by Amani Alsaied, who is Syrian, as part of her major in Film and New Media at NYU Abu Dhabi. The 22-year-old was born and raised in Qatar, where she met the woman who inspired her to create the film.
“I attended a first-aid course given to Syrian women visiting Qatar, to help them deal with tragedy if, God forbid, they see anyone hurt,” says Alsaied. “I was there because I wanted to meet Syrian women, to see how they were coping.
“I met this very successful, very educated businesswoman, who showed me pictures of her children on her phone. I responded with, as you say in Arabic: ‘May God keep them in good health for you’. She looked at me and said: ‘My son is dead.’
“It really broke my heart. It brought home to me the tragedy that expat Syrians have to deal with. It’s such a horrifying dynamic that needs to be looked at closer. This project really started from there.”
Alsaied then met and interviewed hundreds of Syrian refugees in the Arabian Gulf. Their stories helped her create the script for Adam, whichspeaks of family, love and loss, as the title character views the Syrian uprising of 2011 from afar through the experiences of his wife and daughter who are in the country.
Alsaied has never lived in Syria, but used to go there for holidays as a child.
“My mother had always made sure I knew what it meant to be Syrian,” she says. “In minute detail, she would describe the traditional Syrian house where she grew up in Damascus – the fountain in the middle, the river that ran beneath it and the fat house cat they had. I have never been to that house, but I know it by heart.”
When she became a student at NYUAD, Alsaied had to say her nationality out loud for the first time.
“I remember the first time someone in Abu Dhabi asked me that question,” she says. “It took a moment to process before I said I was Syrian – of course I was. It was about realising my identity and its context in broader terms. I realised I have a strange relationship with Syria – I don’t know the names of every street and town, but I know it enough to be infinitely attached to it.”
Alsaied was a freshman student at NYUAD when the Syrian war broke out. The summer of 2011 was supposed to be when she visited Syria for the first time as an adult, “a chance to get to know this place that was a part of me”.
She had plans for many projects there, including her NYUAD thesis film, and hadn’t expected the protests to go on for more than a couple of months.
She is still waiting for a chance to return to her native land.
“Now, so much has changed,” she says. “The Syrian sights that I wanted to see my whole life, like the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, have been partially or completely destroyed.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to be constantly bombarded by all these horrifying images on the news that people then start to become desensitised to.
“I started asking myself: ‘What does it actually mean for a family to be broken apart?’ My film’s purpose was to understand how it feels to lose something so precious.”
Adam is played by the Jordanian-Armenian actor and filmmaker Naim Zaboura, and the Egyptian actress Nesrin Sanad (who starred in 2011’s Sea Shadow) plays Adam’s wife, Hawwa.
The film is only seven minutes long, but it took Alsaied more than a year to develop and make.
“The writing process was the hardest part and that took about six months, because of how sensitive it is,” she says. “The script went through many rewrites. We wanted to be very careful.”
Alsaied says her intention is not to draw conclusions or provide information about the war in Syria.
“I’m not the appropriate authority to explain anything,” she says. “The film is more for me to understand what it means to have family living within a conflict.”
Article Source : The National