Review: Nezouh – Cineuropa

VENICE 2022 Extra Horizons

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– VENICE 2022: Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan explores the dilemma between staying or leaving a city crushed by war in the form of allegory and against the backdrop of female emancipation

Review: Nezouh

Nizar Alani and Hala Zein in Nezouh

“Bombs cannot touch the stars”. Having faith in the future, overcoming one’s fears, hoping instead of suffering, being pragmatic by shaking off inertia and using one’s imagination and, above all, that women gain their autonomy and turn their backs on traditional patriarchy: these are the main themes explored by the Syrian director born in France and living in London Soudade Kaadan in his second feature film Nezouh [+leggi anche:
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, presented in the Orizzonti Extra program of the 79th Venice Film Festival. It is an allegorical film along the same lines as his first work The Day I Lost My Shadow [+leggi anche:
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(crowned at the Lido with the Lion of the future in 2018).

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“It’s not the end of the world”, “We’ve put all our money into this apartment. Let’s stay here!”, “The house isn’t that badly damaged. God must really love us to save it. I’m happy.” In the heart of Damascus where the war is in full swing, Motaz (Samir al-Masri) pushes the boundaries of forced optimism to rare and unseen levels. As there is a constant risk of bombing in this unnerving suspended time, snipers and armed patrols occupy the deserted and devastated streets of the city, and water, electricity, and food begin to be severely scarce, forcing a family man to travel dangerous roads. But the fear of becoming a refugee, a stray, is even stronger and Motaz clings to his house like a limpet to the rock, imposing the vision of him on his wife Amer (Nizar Alani) and their daughter Zeina (Hala Zein). A paralyzing vision that reaches astounding levels when a bomb opens huge holes in all the walls of the apartment and in the ceiling of the teenager’s bedroom, which his father hurries to cover with fabrics. But new possibilities and potential new beginnings open up for Zeina and her mother in this apartment buried by dust and rubble. And a young neighbor named Halla (Kinda Alloush) enters the scene, throwing a rope from the roof (so that Zeina can reach him at night) and evoking the existence of a tunnel that allows people to escape from Damascus … The mother and daughter then decide to leave, but the father still doesn’t want to know …

Full of wonderful surrealist ideas (the sky turns into the sea on which Zeina bounces the stones, while the fabrics that mask the damage of the bomb swell like the sails of a boat, etc.) and along a tragicomic line, Nezouh perfectly expresses the dilemma of deciding whether to stay or leave, all the weight of the surrounding war and the difficulties of breaking with the domination of patriarchy in society (“you are like my father: tell me what to do”), especially thanks to the size of the doors closed of the first half of the film. However, despite the multiple (perhaps even excessive) efforts in terms of staging, the film’s narrative minimalism and the excessively optimistic spirit of the story end up diluting the strength of the message addressed to women, namely that of “not looking back”.

Produced by the British company Berkeley Media Group and by KAF Production (the director’s company) with the French company Ex Nihilo, Nezouh is sold worldwide by mk2 films.

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(Translated from the French)

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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