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A Syrian Love Story
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 from N/A votes
Release: 18 Sep 2015 /

A Syrian Love Story

Genre: Documentary, Drama
Director: Sean McAllister,
Synopsis: Filmed over 5 years, A Syrian Love Story charts an incredible odyssey to political freedom. For Raghda and Amer, it is a journey of hope, dreams and despair: for the revolution, their homeland and each other.

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Critic Reviews

This might seem a harsh judgment about a film charting the reaction of a Syrian family to the conflict within their country over a five- year period, but A SYRIAN LOVE STORY comes across as a shamelessly manipulative piece of filmmaking, where director Sean McAllister has deliberately shoehorned the struggles of his subjects into a clichéd piece of narrative.

The story centers on Raghda and Amer, a couple living in Syria who both suffered the trauma of imprisonment for their revolutionary views. As the story opens, Raghda is still incarcerated and Amer has to look after their large family. With Syria gradually descending into anarchy, the family have to leave their country and decamp to Lebanon; eventually they are given asylum in France. But Raghda cannot forget her loyalty to her country, and so she departs once again for Syria to occupy a senior position in the rebel government, living partly in her own country and partly in the eastern Turkish town of Gaziantep. Meanwhile Amer continues to bring up the rest of the family in France while plying his trade as a farmer.

The story is a poignant one, charting the ways in which personal feelings and political commitment often conflict with one another. Yet director McAllister continues to obtrude himself into the narrative, talking at one point about his own imprisonment in Syria, and freely associating with the family. This decision tends to divert attention away from the film's basic subject; are we really witnessing a depiction of an ordinary Syrian family, or concentrating instead on the director's relationship to that family?

This conflict becomes more pronounced when the family are in France, and Raghda and Amer begin to play out their marital struggles for the camera. McAllister eggs them on with some shamefully leading questions, almost as if he wants to fit their arguments into a melodramatic narrative of his own making. There is a certain sense of absurdity about two Syrian people discussing one another's foibles for McAllister's camera in English rather than in their native language of Arabic.

There are other devices that prove jarring; throughout the film Raghda and Amer's dialogue has been subtitled, even though their English pronunciation is perfectly comprehensible. The subtitles don't even reflect what they are saying, but provide a cleaned-up version of their syntax. McAllister himself resorts to using pidgin English, especially with the children, which makes it seem as it he positions himself as a privileged Westerner talking down to the Easterners.

In the end nothing is resolved; but McAllister has his film, which presumably was his intention anyway.

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