Omar Amiralay: An Imaginative Rendition of Reality

Part of Lens on Syria: Thiry Years of Contemporary Cinema, A Touring Exhibit Organized by ArtEast

Supported in Part by Multnomah County Cultural Coalition

Mar. 6 + 7 - 7:30 pm
New American Art Union

About This Screening

Born in Damascus in 1944, Omar Amiralay, Syrian documentary film director and prominent civil society activist, is noted for the strong political criticism in his films. His first film, Film-Muhawalah ‘An Sadd al-Furat (Film-Essay on the Euphrates Dam, 1970) was an enthusiastic documentation of the Baath regime's construction of the Assad dam that promised to bring radical improvement to surrounding villages. His second film, conceived with Sa‘adallah Wannus, one of Syria's most celebrated modernist playwrights and essayists, was radically different. Titled al-Hayat al-Yaomiyyah fi Qarya Suriyya (Everyday Life in a Syrian Village, 1974) it was a scathing critique of the government's failure to provide basic amenities to the poor. The film, produced by the General Organization for Cinema, was banned and remains so to this day. Al-Dajaj (The Chickens, 1977), was produced for Syrian television and continued in the same critical vein, this time documenting the plight of poor peasants suffering as a result of failed ventures in chicken farming promised by the state to bring prosperity. Amiralay’s controversial new film, Tufan Fi Balad el-Ba'th (A Flood in Baath Country, 2003), returns to Assad Dam after fatal construction flaws have been discovered, exploring the metaphorical implications of such weakness. Without commentary or criticism, his film exposes Baath party propaganda and its debilitating effects on the people of al-Mashi village. From very early on, Amiralay's films earned a number of awards worldwide and his cinema has become canon for generations of documentary filmmakers in the Arab world.

Program Details

March 6
  • al-Hayat al-Ywmiyyah fi Qarya Suriyyah/ Everyday Life in a Syrian Villlage
    Syria, 1974, video, b&w, 90 min.
March 7
  • al-Dajal / The Chickens
    Syria, 1977, video, b&w, sound, 40 min.
  • Muhawalah 'an Wadi al-Furat/Film-Essai on the Euphrates Dam
    Syria, 1970, video, b&w, 10 min.
  • al-Tawfan/A Flood in Baath Country
    Syria/France, 2003, video, color, 46 min.

© Cinema Project 2003 - 2016