Showing Syria through human eyes

By Misch Pautsch

What does civil war look like – beyond the filters and editorial choices of large media cooperations? What is it like reporting on it from a home you scarcely recognise? Lina, a journalist and activist from Syria tells that story in the documentary 5 Seasons of Revolution – and our interview.

We meet Lina – one of the five cover names she uses to protect herself, friends and family in Syria – at the Luxembourg Film Festival. At the time of our interview, her documentary 5 Seasons of Revolution is being screened to an audience of Luxembourgish Lycée pupils in the room next door. For many of them, it is the first time they see pictures of this more than a decade long conflict that go beyond stereotypes: Instead of masked men with guns in the streets, destroyed buildings and ragged-looking people carrying bags, they will see Syria as now 40 years old Lina and her friends and team saw it – the perspective of journalists and activists, who witnessed the country they grew up in being turned into something else, something far from a home. They will see friendships, families, the elusive snowy day in Damascus which serves as a plausible excuse to openly film everyday moments – but also the real tragedy and loss that comes with war. Lina, who is currently living in Europe, does not yet know that her movie will win the Youth Jury Award later that weekend.

Lëtzebuerger Journal: Normally, this question is asked as a formality, but in this case, it is warranted to be asked in all sincerity. How are you?

Lina: Oh. It's been a while. I'm doing much better now. Time helps a lot. And today specifically, I'm doing very well, this is the best way I can imagine celebrating the 8th of March [International Woman's Day, ed]. It's inspiring, but I also feel a bit of the pressure of responsibility in front of all these young women, especially girls studying journalism. But at the end of the day, that's what I set out for.

I asked this in part because in the movie, it feels like you're very angry with yourself, saying "We tried, and we failed." Do you still feel the same now, seeing your movie being screened to an international audience?

I now see from a distance that the kind of changes we're aiming for are the kind that take way more time than we were hoping. So, I don't know if we can yet draw the line on how much we failed. We failed to meet the deadlines we wanted, that's for sure. It's also an open question of where to place the responsibility of the failure. Is it only us? Is it shared? There is also this question that we debated for many years, and that we now stopped debating, not because they reached an answer, but because they just got tired of it: What did we do wrong? We tried so many different things, we were willing to make huge sacrifices. And it's not just Syria. All over the Middle East, there were many scenarios: Tunis and Egypt. Look where they ended up now. So that makes you wonder, is it that we made the right wrong choice? But then we look around, it's like, well, what other choices are there?

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