For someone who is not nearly as well informed as they would like to be about current events, documentaries can be really valuable in penetrating beyond the surface level knowledge many get from day-to-day media. Yasmin Fedda’s new documentary Ayouni is a perfect example. While most know that Syria is locked in a terrible civil war and has been for the last ten years, the scarcity of significant developments in that time means it has faded from the headlines and now exists as a constant truth for those living there. This feature shows – in heartbreaking detail – the human implications of the stalemate.
Filmed over at least eight years, the movie tells the story of Syrians who have been kidnapped – or who have forcibly disappeared – by the Assad regime through the eyes of their loved ones. There is an amazing diversity to the footage Fedda and her team have assembled, as viewers see protestors shot and beaten and are taken inside what looks like a government prison. Here, there are intimate scenes of people before they have been kidnapped. Some have been shot by the crew while others have been borrowed. With these contributors credited as “many anonymous camera operators”, spectators are made aware of the perils of capturing video in Syria during the project. The effect of it all is really powerful.
What is especially impressive about Ayouni is the way it very carefully drip feeds its story to the audience, mimicking the suffering of families and friends who receive only tiny details about their loved ones over the course of many years. The documentary shows these individuals to be incredibly resolute and admirable – at a certain point in the film, one explains they don’t want the sadness or sympathy of observers. Although, it’s hard not to sympathise when the audience witnesses in devastating detail the emotional turmoil the lack of any information causes. The hope and fight they continue to display is inspiring.
Ayouni is an excellent work. Compelling and empowering, it shows the cruelty of a regime that refuses to give up power but suggests that the people it victimises are equally steadfast.
Ayouni is released digitally on demand on 26th February 2021.
Watch the trailer for Ayouni here: