In one film, a Syrian soldier looks to camera and confesses that he snuffed out the life of an innocent man; in another, a young man describes his improving situation – before an airstrike interrupts him.
A collective set up in 2010 has spawned a new film genre, known as Emergency Cinema, which offers an urgent response to extreme circumstances.
Based in Damascus, Abounaddara Films wants to show Syria in a different light from conventional news coverage. “We are not trying to capture the tragedy as it unfolds,” says producer Charif Kiwan. “We go to see people – individuals – and try to let them tell their stories. Women, men, children; with the regime, against the regime: it doesn't matter for us.”
The group’s volunteer citizen reporters face competition from others in the region with very different agendas. Slickly produced videos are a key part of the social media campaign for the Islamic militant group ISIS, and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad fills his Instagram account with images that show him as a caring, smiling leader.
“If we want to resist ISIS we have to help society,” Kiwan tells Tom Brook. “Our role – our duty – as filmmakers is to show that our society can resist.”