Posted by Shohini Chaudhuri
In his stunning animated short Suleima, director Jalal Maghout presents a portrait of a Syrian opposition activist, based on an anonymous woman’s real-life testimony. A Syrian currently living in Berlin, Jalal has a background in making short animated films. Here he offers his personal perspectives on the making of Suleima, his first foray into animated documentary, which will screen for the first time in England at Space and Memory in the War-Torn City, at The Mosaic Rooms.
What motivated you to make this film?
I was so touched by the story of this lady, so I wanted to have more space where I can be able to express myself more especially in the common feeling and thoughts between me and her. The main thing about her is that she is not a known personality from the official opposition, but an ordinary woman who can reflect the situation of thousands of people who are working and helping others anonymously.
How did you create the character of Suleima?
All I had was a voice recording of her telling the story confidently. It was enough to build an image of an ordinary, nondescript woman, who trusts her abilities and values. Not forgetting that any kind of reference to her real character will put her in a real dangerous situation since she is still active till now in the humanitarian field in Syria.
Could you talk about your choice and use of animation to tell a story of political oppression and evoke a war-torn place?
Watching us stuck in ignorance, injustice and pain gave me a push to do something to raise my voice and to say, ‘No more!’ And storytelling through animation is my medium. It is the way I react to life. For me, animation is an effective medium to depict an unattainable situation, for example, our memories, fantasies and dreams – the people whom we cannot meet in person and the places we cannot visit, and of course, in this case, to protect the persons who are involved in the film.
On the other hand, ‘animadoc’ is a new genre for me, which I wanted to experiment with. The most fascinating point about this genre is that you can be less loyal to the documentary material you have. You are free to add and create from your artistic view.
Suleima will be screening at Space and Memory in the War-Torn City at The Mosaic Rooms on 18/5/16, 6.30pm. This is the first event in the series Crisis and Creativity: A Season of Contemporary Films from and about the Arab World curated by Shohini Chaudhuri.