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Collapsed building in Syria. Photo: Pixabay.
Collapsed building in Syria. Photo: Pixabay.

Syrian Filmmakers Denounce Use of Destroyed Cities as “Cinematic Backdrops”

Eighty-seven Syrian filmmakers have signed an open letter condemning the use of footage of towns and cities devastated by Syria’s civil war. On Monday, October 14, Bidayyat published a statement calling out camera crews given permission to document razed buildings and rubble from former homes and businesses for projects sponsored by the Syrian government, labeling the act “cinematic looting.”

The letter rebukes filmmakers for “ignoring the raw recent memories of a place; the sanctity of homes; the stories, lives and memories of their inhabitants. . . . These devastated towns and cities transformed into cinematic backdrops are not only places where war crimes have been freshly committed, including the shelling of residential areas, schools, hospitals, or bakeries. They are also the site of ongoing crimes against humanity in the form of the forced displacement of their rightful inhabitants, and the prevention of their right to return to their homes.”

The statement draws attention to the fact that the millions who have been forced to leave their homes as the result of the conflict now fear that they may be permanently displaced due to various concerns, ranging from confrontations with Syrian security forces—according to the Washington Post, more than two thousand refugees have been detained trying to return to the country—to redevelopment schemes. It also criticizes the use of documentary film to perpetuate the “narratives of killers” and compares the act to cultural censorship.