Cries From Syria (NR)

Documentary 111 min.
By Serena Donadoni
For Evgeny Afineevsky, history is written by rebels, whether they are victorious or not. His unsparing and unforgiving documentary Cries From Syria puts the six-year, still-raging Syrian conflict into historical and personal context, from its idealistic origins during the Arab Spring uprisings to the incomprehensible quagmire of civil war and destabilizing exodus of refugees, part of the largest migration since World War II.

Events are presented from the perspective of the Syrian opposition, who seek the removal of President Bashar al-Assad and have formed the Syrian Free Army. It's a ground-level point of view that effectively captures the homegrown revolution but only marginally addresses the outside militia groups and foreign governments (Iran, Turkey and Russia) that are shaping Syria's future and participated in the latest round of peace talks last month.

Afineevsky (Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom) constructs a methodical narrative fueled by outrage. In the chaotic euphoria of the initial protests, activists recall the crackdown by government enforcers, who employ the dirty war tactics of detention and disappearance, torture and execution. His interviews are informative and captivating, but the film's gut-punch immediacy comes from the astounding visuals caught by participants on digital cameras and cellphones, including shocking images of Assad's torturers at work.

Afineevsky illustrates the demonization of refugees by incorporating the perspective of children and teenagers seeking asylum in Europe, directing his anger at the regime's victimization of its most vulnerable. Children have been on the front lines of Assad's war on Syrians, slaughtered by a second-generation dictator willing to kill his country's future to retain power.
Evgeny Afineevsky Bashar al-Assad, Abu Mohammad Al-Julani, Abdul Basset Saroot, Ghiath Matar, Hadi Al Abdullah

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