Mobile cinema brings movie magic to Syrian Kurd children

Children attend a film screening at a school yard in Shaghir Bazar, Syria. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Mobile cinema brings movie magic to Syrian Kurd children

  • Filmmaker Shero Hinde is screening films in remote villages using just a laptop, projector and a canvas screen

SANJAQ SAADUN, Syria: In a schoolyard of rural northeastern Syria, boys and girls break out into giggles watching Charlie Chaplin’s pranks, a rare treat thanks to a mobile cinema roving through the countryside.

In Kurdish-held areas of the northeast, filmmaker Shero Hinde is screening films in remote villages using just a laptop, projector and a canvas screen.

“We’ve already shown films in towns but we wanted children in the villages to enjoy them too,” said the bespectacled 39-year-old with thick greying curly hair.

With some films dubbed into Kurdish and others subtitled, he and a team of volunteers want to spread their love of cinema across Rojava, the Kurdish name of the semi-autonomous northeast of war-torn Syria.

“Our goal is that in a year’s time, there won’t be a kid in Rojava who hasn’t been to the cinema,” the Kurdish filmmaker said.

Sitting on colored plastic chairs in the village of Sanjaq Saadun just before dusk, the boys and girls watch wide-eyed as the first black-and-white images of “The Kid” appear on screen.

Lively piano music rings out across the school basketball court, as Chaplin plays a tramp who rescues an orphaned baby in the 1921 silent movie.

Laughter rises above the darkened playground as he tries to clean the baby’s nose or to feed him from a kettle strung from the ceiling.

In local minds, cinema is tied to tragedy, after a fire ripped through a theater in the nearby town of Amuda in 1960, killing more than 280 children.

The mobile cinema, says Hinde, aims to introduce young children to the magic of the silver screen from the early days of moving pictures — something he missed out on as a schoolboy.

“When we were kids, the cinema was that dark place,” said the filmmaker, wearing black-rimmed glasses and a green T-shirt.

In primary school, he and others were taken to see films inappropriate for their age and in substandard conditions, he recalled.

It was only later that he discovered “the truth and beauty of cinema.”

To give today’s children a different experience, “we’re now trying to substitute that darkness for something beautiful and colorful,” he said.

The mobile cinema’s objective is also to screen “films linked to protecting the environment and personal freedoms,” Hinde said.

On another evening in the village of Shaghir Bazar, children rushed in before the film started to grab front-row seats.

On show that day was “Spirit,” an American animated adventure film about a wild stallion captured by humans who dreams of breaking free and returning to his herd.

Among the audience, Amal Ibrahim said her son Kaddar, seven, and daughter Ayleen, six, were brimming with excitement.

“They could hardly wait to come. They’ve never been to the cinema before,” she said in Kurdish.

Even some of the village’s older men had turned up to see the cartoon adventure, after not having been to the cinema in decades.

Standing to one side, they reminisced about the films of their youth.

Adnan Jawli, 56, came along with his two children. “Today, I brought my kids to the cinema and all my memories are flooding back,” he said.

“Forty years ago, I would go to the cinema and watch the film from outside through the window,” said Jawli.

“It was such a great feeling when the lights dimmed and the film started.”

Hinde’s own credits include “Stories of Destroyed Cities,” a feature-length film about three towns in Syria and Iraq on the road to recovery after Kurdish forces expelled Daesh.

Apart from spearheading the defeat of the militants, Syria’s Kurds have largely stayed out of the country’s eight-year war, instead working toward autonomy after decades of marginalization.

Though Kurdish-led fighters are still battling sleeper cells, Hinde and his team are already looking to the future.

Beyond their roving cinema, they dream of opening a movie theater at a fixed location.

“But that will depend on the war ending and stability returning to the country,” he said.


Fatah and Hamas blame each other for reconciliation failure

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Updated 18 February 2020

Fatah and Hamas blame each other for reconciliation failure

  • Sources said Fatah wanted to exclude three factions — the Liberation Movement, the Mujahideen Movement and the Popular Resistance Committees — whereas Hamas wanted them to participate because of their loyalty

GAZA CITY: Fatah and Hamas have blamed each other for their lack of reconciliation following the release of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
The Trump peace plan, supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state that excludes Jewish settlements built in occupied territory and is under near-total Israeli security control. It also proposes US recognition of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land and of Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital, along with Israeli annexation of the Jordan valley.
It has been trashed by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as well as the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on all factions to unite and develop a common strategy to counter the peace deal and there were hopes he would send a PLO team to Gaza to reconcile with his political rivals at Hamas, ending 13 years of internal division. But the meeting has yet to materialize, with each side accusing the other of obstruction and exclusion.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip by force from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, with the takeover leaving Palestinians divided between two governments. Hamas controls Gaza and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority governs autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The two sides remain bitter enemies.
The PLO’s Saeb Erekat, who is executive committee secretary, said the organization’s factions were ready to go to the Gaza Strip. “It is Hamas that is delaying the visit, by refusing to invite the factions to hold a meeting that includes all the factions in Gaza,” he told Arab News. “We do not see any reason for Hamas to delay issuing invitations to the Palestinian factions to respond to what was agreed upon in holding a factional meeting in Gaza, until a reconciliation agreement is reached and ending
the division.”
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah central committee, said the group was not waiting for the approval of any party to go. It was waiting for an official date from Hamas in order to hold the factional meeting in Gaza.
In 2017 Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza, including the key Rafah border crossing.

The deal was brokered by Egypt and helped bridge the gulf between the two Palestinian parties — the Western-backed Fatah and Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist organization by several countries including the US.

HIGHLIGHT

Mahmoud Abbas called on all factions to unite and develop a common strategy to counter the peace deal and there were hopes he would send a PLO team to Gaza to reconcile with his political rivals at Hamas, ending 13 years of internal division. But the meeting has yet to materialize.

Hamas leader Ismail Radwan said there was no need for hiding or “evasion” as the group’s stance was clear about representation and delegations. “It (Hamas) has repeatedly welcomed the visit of the delegation to achieve reconciliation, the brothers in Islamic Jihad and the popular and democratic fronts approved that,” he told Arab News. Fatah, he said, opposed the inclusion of “resistance forces.”
“The problem lies in the political thought of Abbas and his team, who do not believe in real partnership on the ground, and they like to exclude the resistance factions that have presented hundreds of martyrs,” he added.
Sources said Fatah wanted to exclude three factions — the Liberation Movement, the Mujahideen Movement and the Popular Resistance Committees — whereas Hamas wanted them to participate because of their loyalty.
A Fatah delegation visited Gaza last week without meeting Hamas. Radwan said there was no meeting because the delegation insisted on holding a “bilateral meeting” with Hamas only.
“We welcomed the arrival of the delegation of the Palestinian Authority in the hope that it would be a prelude to a meeting at the level of general secretaries or a scheduled national meeting, but unfortunately Fatah started with obstacles, the first of which was the refusal of the national and factional presence at this meeting,” he said.
Ibrahim Abrash, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said there was no reconciliation agreement in sight. “What happened after the announcement of the deal of the century is an emotional state without real intentions on both sides of the division,” he told Arab News. Mutual accusations and the justifications for the visit’s failure were “trivial,” he added.