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"A Dream's End": Temporalities in Abounaddara's Emergency Cinema

by Ethan Tussey

by Zainab Saleh for IN MEDIA RESEach week, Syrian filmmaking collective Abounaddara uploads a video onto their Facebook page. Depicting glimpses of life under siege, monologues from victims and survivors, or ironic montages of the grim realities faced in the ongoing catastrophes, the filmswhat they term emergency cinemaaim to shed light on the individuals affected by those events. The videos are short, ranging from a minute or so to under ten, and each one different, be it in content, motive, or style. The anonymous, self-funded, and self-taught filmmakers work from within Syria and without. This recent one, A Dreams End, follows a format visible in some of their other videos. It begins with the silhouette of a man in close-up, backlit against a bright window. As with most of the videos, this one has little context. It begins, in media res if you will, and we hear the man speak. Although the videos beginning or end might seem arbitrary, the mans narrative attempts to provide a conventional structure. He describes his decision to leave Syria, the steps he took to find a way out, the arduous journey through checkpoints and across the border, and then shares his disbelief that he might actually be safe. As he talks, the camera, mostly steady, stays focused on his head, framed a second time by the window. Jump cuts punctuate his story like chapters, making the video feel much longer than it is, drawing attention to the details he describes. The videos often focus on the power of testimonynot so much over that of the image, perhaps, as much as a counterpoint to it. The collectives manifesto argues for the right to self-representation; Charif Kiwan, the collectives spokesperson, calls their videos bullet filmsshort, urgent, and aimed at breaking through the visual noise associated with media coverage of war and atrocity. His language is suggestive of the instantaneous, a desire to convey all at once, to collapse time. In oneinterview,Kiwan explains that a new mode of representation requires a new form of temporality. Some sense of this emerges in A Dreams End, where the time of ending and beginning rub up against each other. Indeed, in Abounaddaras video archive, begun in 2011 and which has since gained visibility and garnered awards, the tension between completion and continuation generates questions about the practices of viewing the collection, but more importantly also about a viewers response to it.

The future and the temporality of cinema

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A short film "A Dream's End"

from A Dream's End (2016)
Creator: Abounaddara
Distributor: Vimeo
Posted by Ethan Tussey