‘No Man’s Land’ digs deep into Syrian conflict

“No Man’s Land” is a new TV series co-produced by OSN. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 November 2020

‘No Man’s Land’ digs deep into Syrian conflict

  • ‘These are people too,’ says star Dean Ridge, who portrays a Daesh fighter in the new series

 

DUBAI: It’s been almost 10 years since the conflict in Syria began, and as new conflicts and calamities arise elsewhere, the horrors that the Syrian people continue to endure have seemingly lost their immediacy, particularly for the media, while the complexity of the situation has also driven many to push the war out of their mind entirely rather than attempt to make sense of all that has happened.

“No Man’s Land,” a new TV series co-produced by OSN, is trying, though. The story begins with a mystery — a man in France believes his sister to be dead until he catches a glimpse of her alive and well in the background of a news broadcast about the Syrian-Kurdish YPG fighting Daesh. Obsessed with finding her, he sets off to find a way into Syria, immediately getting himself caught in the crosshairs.

Featuring characters from all sides of the conflict, “No Man’s Land” was created, first and foremost, to show each person as fully human, regardless of their affiliations. To set itself apart from shows such as “Homeland,” the cast and crew worked tirelessly on set and off to ensure no one was reduced to a stereotype or a caricature, and every motivation, good or evil, was founded in something real, allowing audiences to consider the actual people caught up in the war more deeply.




English actor James Purefoy stars in the series. (Getty)

“We want to remind audiences that these are people too, that this is still going on, and you can't just hear about it on the news and turn it off. Quite often it gets dehumanized because you just hear reports. We try and show that people's lives are being affected. Hopefully, that creates a level of empathy,” star Dean Ridge tells Arab News.

For some of the cast, including English actor James Purefoy, it was a chance for to learn about something they knew little about.

“As you get older, you’re constantly searching for things that you've not done before, and you've not seen before. It's like an oasis, when something like this happens; you just are drawn to it. It was like looking through the keyhole of a whole world that I didn't really know about. And I didn't really understand. And I think I have a greater understanding now of it, because of this show,” says Purefoy.  

Ridge and his co-star James Krishna Floyd may have had the toughest task — to get into the minds of Daesh soldiers. Both dove headfirst into the emotionally-taxing research, meeting with experts on radicalization as well as studying documentaries including “Of Fathers and Sons,” the award-winning film by Syrian director Talal Derki.




Mélanie Thierry in “No Man’s Land.” (Supplied)

“I think the most profound thing I found from that is that it's different for absolutely everyone that gets involved, because they make the grievances personal. They make it entirely about you and frame their argument to fit whatever it is that you are searching for. It could affect nearly anyone,” says Floyd.

Ridge’s character and performance in particular is indicative of the show’s approach, according to Floyd — a Western man who is seduced into doing evil under the belief that he is truly doing the right thing.

“You have got to give the filmmakers a lot of credit for really delving into the character because I think a lot of writers wouldn't do that. They would just dismiss him as this sort of adrenaline junkie,” says Floyd.

While the female-led militias that helped defeat Daesh are a central part of the show, the focus on the Daesh fighters themselves may be the most uncomfortable, but also the most necessary.

“We are meant (in mainstream media) to look at these people as monsters, and nothing else,” says Purefoy. “That is so useless in trying to understand it, or deal with it, or find ways to empower people without them ever feeling that they need to go to Syria. There have got to be other ways of including people in our world that stops them from being forced out sideways into a world like that.

“You can only do that if you see people with humanity — if you see people as real, with real feelings and problems that have to be addressed. If we don't start addressing them, we end up in that world. To me, that's the most useful thing about this show,” Purefoy continues. “We're not going to change anything, but if we can create a tiny little bit of understanding, that's a baby step. And baby steps become big steps eventually.”


Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

Nutrition is the most important part when it comes to bodybuilding, then comes type of exercise, and good rest. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2020

Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

  • Ali Al-Salam, who stopped consuming animal products in 2017, says certain steps must be completed to have an athletic body

JEDDAH: The vegan diet has risen in popularity in Saudi Arabia in recent years and has been a constant topic of debate among Saudis, attracting the interest of many, including athletes.

Ongoing debates about whether the vegan diet is sufficient for normal people, let alone bodybuilders, abound, but one Saudi is answering them physically.
Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.
Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease, but other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.
Speaking to Arab News, 33-year-old Saudi vegan bodybuilder, Ali Al-Salam, who first started his vegan diet three years ago when he was suffering from high blood pressure, highlighted that the consumption of animal products is a deep rooted idea among bodybuilders and athletes.
“We always hear that in order to build muscle, we must consume animal products. In some parts of the world, there are people who can only have a small amount of animal products yet they live their lives healthily and comfortably and are not suffering from malnutrition — on the contrary, they have a lower level of chronic illnesses.”

When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.

Ali Al-Salam, Saudi vegan bodybuilder

He said it also opened his eyes to what goes on in the dairy and meat industry; he began researching in 2016 and decided to become vegan in 2017.
“I was just like every other athlete, I used to consume a high amounts of protein. I remember in the last days before turning vegan, I used to have 10 egg whites and a piece of steak for breakfast to fulfil my protein needs. This made me think, ‘is this the only way to consume protein?’ And from then on, I started researching and got introduced to the vegan diet at a larger scale,” he said.
“When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.”
He explained that bodybuilding does not solely rely on protein, and that there are steps that must be completed in order to reach an athletic body. Nutrition is the most important part, then comes type of exercise, and good rest.
“When we talk about good nutrition, it does not just rely on protein. Yes, it is important, but the amount of calories in general is more important,” he said.
“Let’s say you needed 200 grams of protein, does that mean if you consumed 200 grams of it, you would gain muscle? No. You need all the basic nutrients to reach a certain amount of calories in general,” he added.
He highlighted that as soon as people register for gym memberships, they immediately look for supplements because they think they cannot reach the needed amount of protein.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.

• Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease.

• But other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.

• Vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants.

• Animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.

“I’m talking about non-vegans here too, where their protein intake is already high. Marketing plays a big role here. People link protein to animal products because our society grew up with this idea as well.
“Can a vegan build muscle? Yes, when they eat right, exercise correctly and rest well. The misconception about protein stems from amino acids. People think vegan food lacks amino acids, and only animal products are full of them and that is far from the truth,” he added.
When comparing vegan athletes to regular athletes, he said vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants which helps greatly in recovery, and because “animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.”