Screening: Everyday Life in a Syrian Village
by Omar Amiralay
Tuesday 22 January 2019, 6.30pm–8.05pm
Considered a landmark in the history of Arab cinema and banned in Syria to this day, the documentary Everyday Life in a Syrian Village (1974) is director Omar Amiralay’s critique of the Syrian government’s agricultural and land reforms in the mid-twentieth century. The film was influential on the making of Manna’s Wild Relatives.
Omar Amiralay (1944 — 5 February 2011) was a Syrian documentary film director and prominent civil society activist. He is noted for the strong political criticism in his films and played a prominent role in the events of the Damascus Spring of 2000. Born in Damascus in 1944, Amiralay studied in Paris at Théâtre de la Ville between 1966-7 and later at La Fémis, before returning to Syria in 1970. He thus had a different artistic formation from the majority of Syrian film-makers, who studied in the Soviet Union or in Eastern Europe. His films include a trilogy of documentaries concerning the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates. The first, Film Essay on the Euphrates Dam (1970), is a tribute to Syria's greatest development project, but the second and third take a more critical approach. Everyday Life in a Syrian Village (1974) shows the dam's ambiguous impact on the lives of ordinary people in a nearby village, and portrays their relationship with the authorities, seen as distant and disconnected from them. Amiralay revisited the region in 2003 with A Flood in Baath Country, which contains trenchant political criticism (it had the working title Fifteen reasons why I hate the Baath Party).
Image: Omar Amiralay, Everyday Life in a Syrian Village (1974), film poster. Courtesy of Omar Amiralay Society.