Syrian Cinema: History & Development
● When the first film show of
Lumiere's took place in Le Grand Café in Paris
in 1985, Syria
was still burdened with the Ottoman occupation.
The Syrians did not know cinema until
1908, when a group of foreigners, arriving via Turkey,
held a film show in one of Aleppo
Yet, the official start of cinema in Syria was the show held by Habib Al-Shammas in
his café in Damascus
city in 1912, using a manual projecting machine.
● In 1916, the Ottoman state inaugurated
the first film theatre in Damascus (in the same place where the Parliament
building is standing now), and it was called (Janaq Qala'at) in commemoration of the
Turkish victory over the British fleet in Janaq Qalaat straits , connecting the
Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Jamal Pasha, the Turkish ruler of Syria,
attended this premiere, in which people watched German films. Nevertheless,
this theatre was burnt down one month after its inauguration.
● In 1918, another theatre was opened,
called (Zahrat Dimashq), in partnership between Salo, the mechanical who used
to operate Janaq Qalaat's machines, and the proprietor of the café where this
theatre was built.
→ Later on, many film theatres were opened.
● In 1920, two years after the end of
the Ottoman occupation of Syria,
and its independence, France
sent its troops to invade Syria
and announced its mandate over the young Syrian state.
Accordingly, the national Syrian film
production was delayed up to the end of the 1920's; because the country was in
a state of revolt against the French colonialists during the larger part of the
Then, Syria knew a period of relative
stability and calm, so it became possible of thinking of cinema and film production.
Generation of Pioneers
● In 1928, that is one year after the
start of film production in Egypt,
(The Innocent Suspect), the first Syrian feature film was produced.
The producers were a group of young
men: Ayoub Badri, Ahmad Tello, Mohammad Al-Muradi and Rashid Jalal; who established
a company called "Hermon Film".
» Rashid Jalal directed and
photographed the film after writing the script, based on a real incident that
took place in Damascus.
The heroes are a gang of thieves that
spread horror among the city's citizens.
The performers were the three other
» When the film was shown, it became a
hit although the French authorities (Syria was still under French
mandate), tried to suspend its show.
● In 1931, Helios Company was
established and produced (Under Damascus Sky) , a film written and directed by
Ismail Anzour and produced by Rashid Jalal. But before this film was shown,
(The Heart Song) ,the first Arabic speaking film, entered Syria, and other foreign speaking
Therefore, (Under Damascus Sky), a
silent film, was not a success. Furthermore, the French authorities suspended
its show, on the pretext of some weak legal excuses. Therefore, the film
suffered great material losses, and the company was liquidated.
● Afterwards, Ayoub Badri directed (
The Call of Duty), another silent film.
He played the leading role with a
dancer called (Christine) and some amateur actors. He also directed another
film about the revolutions in Palestine
against the British mandatory authorities, using sections of foreign films for
the battle scenes.
Whereas Ayoub Badri's films were
silent, the actors used to come to the theatre and speak up their roles before
a microphone to make the audience believe the film was not a silent one.
● Late in the year 1947, one year
after independence, Nazih Al-Shahbandar established a studio and equipped it
with cinematicequipment, mostly made by him. In 1948, he produced a film called
(Light & Darkness), written by Mohammad Shamel and Ali Al-Arnaout.
This was the first speaking Syrian
film. The actors who performed in this film became stars later on: Rafiq
Shukri, Evet Faghali, Anwar Al-Baba, Hikmat Mohsen, Nizar Fuad and Saadedin
● In 1950, Erfan & Jaleq Company
was established in Aleppo
and produced the film (The Passer-by), directed and photographed by Ahmad Erfan
, starring the singer: Najib Al-Sarraj.
● In the early 1960's , Zuheir
Al-Shawwa produced and directed his first film" (The Green Valley).
He starred the film along with Amira
Ibrahim, Dalal Al-Shimali, Akram Kholoqi and Khaled Hamdi.
● In 1963, Zuheir Al-Shawwa started
his second film: (Beyond the Frontiers) about the Palestinian Cause.
After two years of continuous work, he
discovered that it is impossible to complete the film, because he lacked enough
He suspended his work after wasting
all he earned from his first film.
● In 1966, Zuheir Al-Shawwa produced,
directed and starred his third film (The Devil's Game). Cast: Amira Ibrahim,
Najwa Sidqi, Najah Hafiz and others. This was Al-Shawwa's last film.
We can consider this film as the
conclusion of a phase in the Syrian cinema distinguished with much enthusiasm
and little experience, material resources, technical and artistic capacities.
This cinema depended on the efforts of
few amateurs. The amateur would write, produce, direct, act and even sometimes
photograph the film.
Practically, this phase did not
produce real cinematic industry, but a deep awareness of the cinema and its
General Cinema Organization
Generation of Pioneers
● After the establishment of The
Ministry of Culture & National Guide in Syria
in 1958, a small department was organized for film production &
cinematography, headed by Salah Dihni, a graduate of Cinematic Studies in Paris.
» This department produced several
documentaries directed by the Yugoslavian director: Poshko Poshkovitch, and
photographed by a Yugoslavian cinematographer Tomislav Pinter, such as (Damascus the Everlasting), (The Only Witness) about Arwad Island,
(Types of Beauty) about Latakia and its surroundings.
» Salah Dihni directed several short
films, e.g. (Water & Dryness), (Arab Antiquities in Syria); and film serials under the
title (Cultural News).
Yousif Fahdeh directed the film
(Applied Arts in Syria).
● Syria participated for the first
time in an international film festival in 1962, when it participated in Berlin
12th Film Festival, with the film (Damascus the Everlasting).
● In 1963, after the Revolution of
March 8th, under the leadership of Ba'ath Arab Socialist party, the General
Cinema Organization, affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, but enjoying
financial and administrative independence, was established.
Among its duties, as stipulated in its
Decree of Establishment, was the production of feature and short films, and
establishing studios, cine clubs, as well as spreading cinematic culture, etc.
● The General Cinema Organization
produced in its early years a number of short films covering various aspects of
the cultural, economic and civilizational life in Syria. But its production of
feature films started four years after its establishment, that is in 1967, when
it produced (The Truck Driver), written by the well-known lawyer and writer
Najat Qassab Hassan and directed by Yugoslavian Poshko Poshkovitch, who had
already directed some short films for the Ministry of Culture.
The cast of the film were Syrian
actors, of whom we mention: Khaled Taja, Hala Shawkat, Abdullatif Fat'hi,
Thanaa Dibsi and others.
» The film tells the story of a young
man who works as a truck driver assistant. Through his story, we can see the
struggle between the truck drivers demanding wage increase and the employer.
» A long discussion followed the production of this film about the fact that
the first feature film produced by the public sector was directed by a foreign
director. Nevertheless it seemed that this was inevitable as a start, pending
the accumulation by Syrian directors of the necessary experience to perform the
hard job of directing feature films.
» However, this film is still significant, although its director was a
foreigner. Firstly, because it was the first feature film produced by the
public sector. Secondly, it started the trend that dominated most if not all
the films produced by this sector later on; that is the trend of dealing with
hot social and national questions with a mature and advanced artistic view,
without considering the box office as the first and last purpose of film
● In 1965, the General Cinema
Organization tried to produce a film trilogy , but the attempt failed.
The idea was proposed again in 1970,
and the trilogy (Men Under the Sun) was produced, directed by Mohammad Shahin,
Marwan Mouazzen and Nabil Al-Maleh.
» The film was produced under the
stress of the defeat of the War of June 1967, and in the period when the
resistance movement was at its height.
» The film won the Silver Award in
Carthage Film Festival, and one part of the trilogy called (The Encounter) won
the award of short feature film in Damascus International Festival for Youth
» This film is considered as the first
feature film produced by the public sector and is Syrian 100%.
● The period between 1963-1975 can be
considered as an artistic, intellectual and technical establishment period.
» Technically speaking, the General
Cinema Organization had during that period supplied itself with all the
necessary equipment to be able to become independent. This was accomplished in
1970, except for the unit of development and colour printing which became ready
The first film produced was (The
Opposite Direction) directed in 1975 by Marwan Haddad.
The cornerstone of a cinematic city was laid down with the purpose of creating
a technical base to develop the cinema industry in Syria.
» Intellectually and artistically speaking, because in this stage the subjects
dealt with by Syrian films were defined: the Palestinian cause and the effects
of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the life and spirit of the Syrian citizen.
Furthermore, we have the social
conflict taking place between the have and have nots, between the forces of the
past and those of the future.
We can say that the Syrian cinema was
going back and forth, since its establishment, between these two concerns, the
political national concern and the social one.
→ This stage was also characterized by the openness of Syrian cinema to the
representatives of serious Arabic cinema and its cooperation with them.
One of the most distinguished of those
was the Egyptian director: Tawfik Saleh, the Iraqi: Qais Al-Zubaidi and the
Lebanese: Burhan Alwaiya.
» Generally speaking, the national trend towards comprehensive Arabic causes,
such as the Palestinian cause and the Arab unity cause was one of the most
important characteristics of the cinema which the General Cinema Organization
tried to produce.
Therefore, we notice that the public
sector cinema did not produce a variety of genres; e.g. it did not produce
musicals, light comedies or adventure films that achieve success in box office.
Since its establishment, the Syrian
cinema aimed at achieving a comprehensive cultural mission, to raise the level
of film appreciation, and make cinema, the most attractive art to the masses,
contribute to the battle fought by the serious culture against all that is
trivial and reactionary.
→ Here, we have to say that the
Corrective Movement lead by President Hafez
Al-Assad in 1970 played a great role in developing the cinematic movement since
the early 1970's.
● Among the important films produced
by the General Cinema Organization , we may mention:
» (The Knife) (1971), directed by
Khaled Hamada, and adapted from the novel of Ghassan Kanafani's : (What is Left
For You). It deals indirectly an aspect of the Palestinian cause.
» (The Leopard) directed by Nabil
Al-Maleh adapted from a story of the same title written by Haidar Haidar. It
won the Jury Award in Damascus International Festival for Youth Cinema in 1972.
It tells the story of a simple peasant
who discovers that the feudal system is an extension of the colonial authority
which, throughj its representative, the gendarme, has usurped his land,
imprisoned, tortured and insulted him. He runs away from the prison with a
rifle, to start his individual bloody struggle against the gendarme and the
» (The Dupes), directed by Tawfik Saleh, adapted from a story by Ghassan
Kanafani (Men in the Sun). It won the Best Award of 4th Carthage Film Festival
and many other important awards in other different film festivals.
It tells the story of three
Palestinians trying to run away from their misery by traveling to Kuwait
to find a job, but their journey ends tragically.
» (The Trilogy of Shame), adapted from
three short stories by Fateh Al-Mudarres, directed by Bashir Safieh, Wadi'
Yousif and Bilal Sabouni.
The film deals with the life and
sufferings of poor peasants under the feudal system.
» (Al-Yazirli), directed by Qais
Al-Zubaidi, adapted from a story by Hanna Mineh. It shows us specimen of people
and their different relations.
It is about a family from which the
father is absent, and the eldest daughter has run away. The boy is left to bear
» (The Daily Life in A Syrian Village), in which dramatist Saadallah Wannous
cooperated with director Omar Amiralay, and the film is almost a documentary. It tells about the daily life of a
village in Al-Jazeerah countryside, uncovering its inhabitants concerns and
their view of the world.
» (Kufur Qassem), directed by Burhan Alawiya, which dealt with the massacre
perpetrated by the Zionist army against the Palestinian villagers in 1956, as
an introduction to the Palestinian cause in whole. The film won the Gold Award
of Carthage Film Festival and two other awards.
» Finally, (The Opposite Direction) directed by Marwan Haddad, and deals with the
daily suffering of a group of young people, belonging to different social
classes, in the period following defeat in the War of June; and how it was
reflected in their political and social concerns.
It tells about the feeling of
disappointment and fruitlessness. But the film also confirms the positive type
whom the defeat did not cause him lose his confidence that it must be
It was the first colour film developed
and printed in the General Cinema Organization's labs. Formerly, all colour films
were developed and printed abroad.
● If we can call the first film-
makers: Ayoub Badri, Rashid Jalal, Nazih Al-Shahbandar, Ismail Anzour, Yousif
Fahdeh and Zuheir Al-Shawwa as (The First Generation of Pioneers), we may call
those who came later and worked within the framework of the General Cinema
Organization, e.g. Salah Dihni, Mohammad Shahin, Khaled Hamadeh, Marwan Haddad,
Nabil Al-Maleh and others as : (The Second Generation of Pioneers). These are
the people who established a real cinematic industry and art.
● Among the important films of the
1970's, we may mention:
» (Habibati Ya Hab Al-Tout), directed
by Marwan Haddad , adapted from a novel by Ahmad Dawood.
It tells the story of a countryside
youth who moves to the city, but cannot stand the city's seductions, so he falls.
» (The Trap), directed by Wadi Yousif,
and written by Ali Okla Arsan. It tells about a poor young woman looking for a
job to support herself and her sick mother, but she undergoes harsh
» (Vestiges of Pictures), directed by Nabil Al-Maleh, adapted from a novel by
Hanna Mineh. It tells about the life of peasants in the late 1920's and their
continuous confrontations with the representatives of the feudal system: the
» ( Heroes Are Born Twice), directed by Salah Dihni, which dealt with the Zionist
occupation of Palestine
from the point of view of a child.
» (The Fifth Castle), directed by Bilal Sabouni, which tells the story of a
countryside young man who is imprisoned by mistake among political prisoners,
and how his awareness is developing.
The Generation of 1980's and 1990's
● In the 1980's a new blood was
infused into the Syrian cinema so that to consolidate and develop the cinematic
traditions and accomplishments achieved by the Second Generation of Pioneers.
A group of young men who had finished their study in the cinema institutes of
the Soviet Union and other socialist
countries, returned to their homeland.
After working for some time in the
field of short documentaries, they began to direct feature films.
Every one of them had his won
distinguished style: from the black comedy of Sami Zekra, to the miniatures of
Mohammad Malas; from the bitter satire of Usama Mohammad to the sad comedies of
Abdullatif Abdulhamid; from the drastic realism of Raymon Butros and the tragic
symbolic lyricism of Maher Kaddo to the deep visual contemplation of the
picture by Riad Shia and the causes of women by Waha Al-Raheb.
Styles have been various and numerous,
but they gave the Syrian cinema a special flavour and enriched it with more
colours and shadows.
There is a common denominator among these directors, i.e. that their films
belong to what is called the (the author's film). They write their own scripts.
Another denominator is that most of
them have tried to tell in their films their memories and talk about events
they knew; they told about the villages or towns from which they came.
Therefore, it is possible to say that
we can find in the 1980's and 1990's films an environmental and cultural survey
of different parts of Syria.
is worth mentioning here that many of these films won best awards or other
awards in many Arab and international film festivals.
Here under is a review of the
most significant films of the 1980's and 1990's:
Half meter Incident) (1980), (The Events of the Coming Year) (1985) and (the
Strangers' Dust) by Samir Zekra:
first film is a journey in the life of a petty civil servant of conservative
background, whose mind is preoccupied with women. This type is dealt with
uncovering all his contradictions, impulses and ambition to go up the ladder,
and leave behind the hardships of life and deprivation.
→ The second film tells the problems encountered by a young musician who is
trying to establish a classic orchestra, but cannot realize his dream because
of many social and administrative obstacles.
→ The third film tells parts of the biography of the Syrian enlightenment
thinker Abdulrahman Al-Kawakibi.
» (The City's Dreams) (1984) and (The Night) by Mohammad Malals:
first film tells about Damascus
in the 1950's and the political changes taking place in the country. It tells
about love stories, violent actions, and collapsing dreams; all through the
eyes of a child.
→ The second film tells about a son trying to put together the story of what
happened to his father, who passed one day Quneitra, the frontier town, on his
way to Palestine to fight the Zionists; came back to that town, married there
and the died being full of fury.
» (The Stars of the Day) (1988) and (Peep Show) (2002) by Usama Mohammad:
first film tells with tragic satire about the shattering of a family belonging
to the middle class in everything: it is mediocre in everything, in wealth,
culture, sympathy and morals. The members of the family try to rejoice, but
their attempt is turned into a tragedy.
→ The second film tells about an isolated country family. The grandfather dies
without naming his three grandchildren. One of the sons comes back after the
defeat of the June War covered with mud. The story is not the most important
thing in the film, but the method by which this world is photographed, and the
point of view.
» (The Nights of the Jackal) (1989), (Verbal Messages) (1991), (The Ascent of
Rain) (1995), (The Breeze of the Soul) (1998), (Two Moons and an Olive) (2001),
(Listeners' Choice) (2003) by Abdullatif Abdulhamid:
→ The first, second, fifth and sixth films are soft comedies that tell about
the people of the countryside and their small world. They show us the
contradictions of their simple lives full of truthfulness and nobility.
third film is an urban comedy telling the story of a writer who is living a
state of continuous movement between his real life and his dreams and
nightmares; all through a satirical surrealism mixed with subtle winged
fourth film is a fine tragicomedy that is almost a sweet ballad about love and
the relations among human beings.
» (the Moss) (1991) and (The Wandering) (1997) by Raymon Butros:
These two films give us a panorama of the life in Hama city.
first film shows us a family of five brothers and their conflict about an
inherited piece of land.
second one tells us a part of Hama's history,
during the period of the coup d'etat by Husni Al-Zaim and the Palestine catastrophe.
» (Something Is Burning) (1993) and (Black Flour) (2001) by Ghassan Shmeit:
first film tells about a family who was forced to leave its town after Israeli
forces occupied it in 1967. Twenty years later, they are still yearning to go
back to their town. They refuse to forget the past and accommodate with their
second film is about a Syrian village after the French colonialists had pulled
out of Syrian territory, and the labour pains that accompanied the independence
» (The Neighing of Directions) (1993) by Maher Kaddo deals , with a symbolic
style, with the journey of a girl chasing a band that killed her family and
» (Al-Lajat) (1995) by Riad Shaya is about this barren basalt land called
(Al-Lajat) stretching over the south of Syria.
film Al-Lajat is a tragic place in which roam characters that have a yearning
for love and freedom.
» (Dreamy Visions) (2003) by Waha Al-Raheb, the only woman director in the
General Cinema Organization.
It is her
first film so it is normal that it should deal with the causes of women in our
contemporary society. A woman is leaving her home to look for her own self.
journey the woman reviews her life and that of her homeland.
● In the
1980's and 1990's, many directors who made films in the 1970's did not direct
any new films. But there are some other directors of that generation, the
second generation of the pioneers, who are still making films.
» one of
these is Mohammad Shahin, who is the most prolific among Syrian film directors.
He directed films for both the public and private sectors.
film is (The Sun in A Cloudy Day) (1985), adapted from a novel by Hanna Mineh ,
and tells about a young man living in Syrian port city during the French
mandate of Syria.
He is an aristocrat but is looking forward to change his life and keep away
from the poisonous atmosphere of his family. So he gets involved with the
people of a poor alley, and learns much from them.
was produced by the General Cinema Organization.
Al-Maleh, directed after a long stop, his film (Comparse) in which he tries to
deal with the world of marginal people and their arduous search for love and
The Second Phase of the Private Sector's
● In 1964,
Syria Film Company was established. One of its founders was Mohammad Al-Rawwas,
who was a cinematographer and one of those who founded the film industry in Syria.
Company tried to make use of the success of the duo: Dureid Lahham and Nihad
Qal'ei in their TV sketch (The Pearl Necklace), so this sketch was produced as
a colour film.
Al-Maalouf, an Egyptian film director of Lebanese origin was asked to direct
the film in which starred (Sabah) the well-
known Lebanese artist.
achieved a great success in the box office, and this encouraged further
attempts; and so Dureid and Nihad starred in about 13 films in the 1960's.
production of the private sector in the 1960's was practically dedicated only
to Dureid and Nihad, except for two films: the above- mentioned (The Devil's
Game) directed by Zuheir Al-Shawwa, and (The Strangers' Meeting), starring
Mariam Fakhereddin and Fahed Ballan.
the above films were directed by Egyptian directors.
speaking, we notice that the majority of the private sector films in the second
stage were directed and starred by Egyptian and Lebanese artists.
private producer rarely risked assigning a Syrian director the duty of
directing films, except for few exceptions.
the characteristics of the films produced in that stage is the low level of
artistic and intellectual accomplishment and the desire of fast profiting,
along with investing as little money as possible.
the private sector failed in that stage, although it was its best, to create
any technical basis for a local cinema industry. It depended in its production
of films on the technical and artistic services provided by the General Cinema
● The film makers of the First Generation
of Pioneers, classified as private sector representatives, attempted to
establish an independent technical and artistic industry. Therefore, they
imported the necessary equipment, and some of them even manufactured them
They also tried to depend on national
technical experts in full. But the private sector in its second stage, only
gave the Syrian cinema goers some bad films.
Nevertheless, we can distinguish a small number of films, among those produced
by the private sector, which tried to be relatively acceptable intellectually
and artistically speaking, e.g. the later films of Dureid Lahham: (Ghawwar's
Empire), (The Borders), (the Report) and (Kafroun) which aimed at using comedy
to deal with significant national and social causes. Another film worth
mentioning is (The Jungle of Wolves) which tried to reveal the world of
contractors, and their sacrificing of all that is humane to earn more money.
in the early 1990's, the private sector's production of films stopped for good,
and most of its actors resorted to TV production.
has been no more Syrian cinema except for what is produced by the General
Cinema Organization, which is really the only representative of Syrian
● We must refer here to a limited
experience in producing feature films by some public sector organizations, but
it did not have the chance to continue.
» The Cinema Section in the Political
Administration , affiliated to Ministry of Defence, produced one feature film
(Up to the Last Man) (1971), directed by Amin Al-Bonni, adapted from ( A Song
on the Passage),a play written by Ali Salem. It tells the story of five
fighters, whose communication and supply were cut during the war.
They are positioned on a strategic point
surrounded by enemy forces.
The above Section also produced a short feature film (Tal Al-Faras) (1985)
directed by Lutfi Lutfi.
» The Syndicate of Artists produced one feature film (Only One man Is Wanted)
(1974), directed by Georges Nasser, a Lebanese director.
Many Syrian actors participated in this
film, which tells about a peasant family which destiny is controlled by another
» The Syrian TV produced one feature film as well : (The Circumstances of A
Very Ordinary Accident) (1974), directed by Haitham Haqqi, in addition a number
of short feature films , such as (The Seesaw) , (The Fire and Water) directed
by Haitham Haqqi, (Quneitra 1974) directed by Mohammad Malas, and (The Child
& the Sun) directed by Lutfi Lutfi.
● In 1932, when Helios Company was working
on the film (Under the Sky of Damascus), there was a talented photographer
called Noureddin Ramadan, photographing short films by means of a cinematic
camera he bought from a German in Beirut.
Up to 1936, he had recorded a number of
national events, such as: the meetings of the first parliament, the return of
the Syrian Delegation from Paris, the great
demonstrations in Damascus
against the French Mandate, the reception of Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Shahbandar
and Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash, the funeral of the national leader Ibrahim Hanano
and other events.
He was harassed by French censorship which
used to cut a great part of his films, before allowing them be shown; so he
stopped practising this career.
● In 1951, Yousif Fahdah
established in Damascus
a film lab containing equipment for development, printing and recording.
During the years 1952-1953, he
photographed two colour documentary films (16 mm.), about Damascus and Latakia.
Later on, he produced more short
documentaries dealing with various subjects.
In Lebanon, he produced two feature
films: (For Whom The Sun Rises) (1958) and (A Stranger in the House) (1960).
When the General Cinema Organization was
established, he joined it as an expert in the development and printing lab; and
he made some short films.
● In 1956, a Cinema Department was
established in the Syrian Army. Since that year, some eminent Syrian
film-makers , such as: Rashid Jalal, Ismail Anzour, Mohamd Al-Rawwas, Khaled
Hamada, Marwan Haddad and others, have either managed this Department or were
employed by it.
It used to produce a newsreel and military
training films, as well as a large number of documentaries dealing with
military and national subjects.
real start of the documentary film in Syria was after the establishment
of the General Cinema Organization, on one part, and the Cinema Department in
Syrian Arab TV on the other.
the short documentaries produced by the General Cinema Organization, we may
& Dryness) directed by Salah Dihni (1961), (Napalm), directed by Nabil
Al-Maleh (1970) (Silver Award of Baghdad Film Festival), (Testimonies of
Children in the Time of War), directed by Qais Al-Zubaidi (1972), (In A Popular
Quarter) directed by Marwan Haddad (1972) (Jury Award of Moscow Film Festival
1973), (About Her) directed by Samir Zekra (1975), (Wishes) directed by
Abdullatif Abdulhamid) (1983), (The Revolution of Sheikh Saleh Al-Ali) directed
by Issam Suleiman (1984) (Silver ýAward of Damascus Film Festival), (The Tent)
directed by Maher Kaddo (1985), (The Witness) directed by Raymon Butros (1986),
(Today & Everyday) directed by Usama Mohammad (1986), (Euphrates
Ceremonies) directed by Walid Hreib (1995), (The Judgement Day of A City)
directed by Basel
Al-Khatib (1995); and a series of films directed by Waid' Yousif about October
the documentaries produced by the Cinema Department in Syrian TV, we may note
the following films:
Are Alright), directed by Faisal Al-Yasiri (1969) (Silver Award of Leipzig Film
Festival), (Away from Homeland) directed by Qais Al-Zubaidi (1969), (An attempt
about the Euphrates Dam) directed by Omar Amiralay (1970) (Award of Leipzig
Film Festival), (The Memory), directed by Mohammad Malas (1977), (Palestine the
Roots) directed by Amin Al-Bonni (1980) (Award of Baghdad Film Festival 1980),
(The Rural Woman) directed by Mamoun Al-Bonni (Gold Award of Damascus Film
Festival 1981) and (Damascus, A Distance for Vision) directed by Himd Midani
can also note the series of ( A Homeland Memoirs) by Amin Al-Bonni (1984-1987)
which tried to document the history of Syrian and other eastern Arab countries
starting with the mid 19th Century.
private sector did not produce documentaries except for two films (The Road to
Peace) directed by Amin Al-Bonni, produced by Abdulrazzak Al-Ghanem and (The
Dream) directed by Mohammad Malas, produced by Maram Company.
only began to produce this type of films in the late 1980's, when Nizar Ghazi
and Samir Jaber made their film (A Traffic Signal) (1979) for the Syrian TV.
Then, no cartoons were produced until the
early 1990's, when the General Cinema Organization planned to produce such
the best cartoons produced by the General Cinema Organization:
films directed by Mouaffaq Qat (A Cuneiform Tale) (Award of Arab Film Critics
and Jury Special Award of Damascus Film Festival 1991), and (One Thousand and
One Pictures) (First Award of Cairo Film Festival for Children Cinema,1996, and
the bronze Award in Carthage Film Festival) and the Golden Award of Plastic
Arts Festival in Tunis); (He and She) directed by Nasser Naasani (Gold Award of
Damascus Film Festival 1995), and his (The Baton) (1994), as well as the two
films directed by Abdul-Mouein Oyoun Al-Soud : (Veto) (1991) and (Pardon Me,
Damascus Film Festival:
● In 1979, the first
session of Damascus Film Festival was held; since its establishment it has
pursued the following objectives:
- To develop the Arab national cinema and
promote it, supporting the trend of youth cinema which adhered to the reality
of the masses, and expressed their basic causes and aspirations.
- To support the serious trends in Asian
and Latin American cinema, and the Third World cinema in general, and to
introduce same to the Syrian audience.
- To create a relationship between cinema and film-makers on one part, and the
audience on the other part.
- To build cultural and intellectual
bridges between Arab film-makers on one part and film-makers of the Third World
countries and the world at large, on the other part.
- To carry out cultural, artistic and educational missions and participate in
spreading cinematic culture.
● The activities of Damascus Film Festival
include a competition for feature films, another for short films of all types,
information film shows, and other sections dedicated to certain cinematic
trends and schools.
Furthermore, other various activities are
Film Festival was not the first of its kind in Syria.
1955, a film festival was organized in Damascus
within the framework of Damascus International Fair, in which participated USA, French,
Italian and Egyptian films. But those were not of any artistic significance but
made for the purpose of profiting.
year, 1956, another session of that festival was organized, but the films were
of different artistic and intellectual level. Unfortunately, this festival did
not last, due to a conflict that arose between its organizers and Damascus
International Fair's administration.
» In 1972, the General Cinema Organization
held a festival called (Damascus International Festival for Youth Cinema) which
is regarded by critics and film-makers as being a new start in the history of
the Arabic cinema, renewing its view of the cinematic art, its relation with
the reality it was observing and the methods of dealing with this reality.
Unfortunately, this Festival was
suspended; and we had to wait seven years to witness the establishment of
Damascus Film Festival which is still going on up to this time, once every two
It had learned the lessons of the former
festivals, and is trying to develop its tools and system from one session to
is noteworthy here to say that this festival was turned, in its 12th session in
2001 from a regional festival (for Asia, Latin America
and the Arab Countries ), into an international festival with doors open to all
countries of the world.
would like here to quote what the Latin American film director Miguel Litin,
who headed the Jury in the 9th session in 1995 said about this Festival: (It is
absolutely one of the most important film festivals in the Third
Damascus Film Festival is one of several cultural festivals held by the Ministry of
Culture and provided with all support necessary for continuation and
● In 1969,
the Law of Monopolizing the Import of Films by the General Cinema Organization
This Law was issued to save the cinema
goers from that flood of trivial commercial films which the private sector
representatives were importing, regardless of their artistic and intellectual
level or the values they were propagating; as long as they earned them high
● Furthermore, the monopoly of importing
films has provided the General Cinema Organization with a margin of profits
that enabled it to develop its production and support the creative experiments
of young film directors; taking into account that the Organization does not
depend on the returns of the films produced by it, because it had an objective,
since its establishment, to perform an artistic and cultural message that no
other cinematic body can perform.
After importing the films, these were
offered to the distributors and theatre proprietors for sale. In many
occasions, distributors abstained from buying films of pure artistic value, so
the Organization showed these films in its theatres, in spite of the losses
with the fallback in the Syrian cinema market, and with the aim of encouraging
distributors and theatre proprietors to develop their business, the monopoly
was recently cancelled, and distributors are free now to import any films they
Cinematic Periodicals and Literature:
● In 1978, the first issue of the quarterly
review (Cinematic Life) was published by Ministry of Culture.
It is almost the only academic review
specialized in the cinematic art in the whole Arab World.
its first issue, Cinematic Life has been documenting the history and the
developments in the Syrian cinema, and following up the local film production.
Furthermore, it provides the reader with information about the new developments
in the Arabic and international cinema.
General Cinema Organization issues, a series of books called (The 7th Art)
dedicated to theoretical cinema matters and memoirs of eminent international
The memoirs of Bunuel, Kirosawa and
Bergman were issued within this series, as well as some cinematic contemplations
by Tarkosvsky , Andrej Wajda , Satyajit Ray, Fellini, Ilya Kazan and others.
Furthermore, other books of this series
deal also with the various aspects of film industry, such as script, direction,
a new cinematic series has been issued (Cinematic Studies & Documents),
dedicated to publish the critical and search contributions by Syrian and Arab
critics and researches in general.
Cinema City & the Organization's Services
● The laying of the cornerstone of the Cinema City
is a significant step on the road of developing the cinematic industry in Syria.
This step has given the chance to provide
all necessary requisites for a full film industry by Syrian hands.
The modernization of the Organization's
equipment provided the Syrian cinema with the means to be in continuous contact
with the latest accomplishments in cinematic techniques.
On the other part, this provided the General Cinema Organization with the
ability to meet the requirements of the private producers for making their
● It is noteworthy that the General Cinema
Organization has been and is still providing many services and facilities for
the private film production, at prices that are almost symbolic.
● In 1987,
(The 7th Day) review, issued in Paris made a poll among a large number of
film-makers in the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the first Arabic feature
film, about the best 10 films ever produced by the Arabic cinema.
the ten films chosen were three Syrian films produced by the General Cinema
(The Dupes) directed by Tawfik Saleh.
(The City's Dreams) directed by Mohammad Malas.
(Kufur Qassem) directed by Burhan Alawiya.
→This would certainly mean that the Syrian cinema,
in spite of the few films it has produced, relatively speaking, has developed
under the auspices of the General Cinema Organization and the Ministry of
Culture in general, has become rich in experience, and has continued to go on
searching for its own voice, in a world that does not care about imitating and
Syrian cinema is no more a baby, as it has gained its distinguished presence in
the Arab and international festivals.
the Syrian film-makers are aware that the road is still long to reach what they
aspire to: a better performance, and films that are more developed and enjoy a
higher level, technically, artistically and intellectually.