“Nezouh”: a Syrian family faced with the dilemma of war

Hala (Kinda Alloush) and Motaz (Samer Al Masri), in “Nezouh”, by Soudade Kaadan.


A question torments the cinema of Syrian director Soudade Kaadan, born in 1979: should you leave your country at war, and when do you decide to flee? Rather than anchoring his films in the reality of the conflict, Soudade Kaadan chooses oneirism and magical realism, the special effects installing the disorder in everyday situations: in The day I lost my shadow (2018), his first feature film which won the Lion of the Future at Venice, a woman who goes in search of a gas canister to cook finds herself trapped in a besieged area and discovers that people are losing their shadows.

In Nezuh, again selected at the Mostra (Orizzonti audience award), a Syrian family persists in staying in Damascus, an almost deserted city, under the threat of bombardments – the film was shot near Gaziantep, in Turkey. The father, Motaz (Samer Al Masri), prefers to stay at home rather than hit the road and become a refugee. He would then lose his marks, his power. His wife, Hala (Kinda Alloush), disagrees with him and is enraged. The 12-year-old daughter, Zeina (Hala Zein), escapes into her daydreams. The day when an explosion pierces the facades and the ceiling of the house, Zeina takes the opportunity to escape for a bit, climbing on the roof terrace to find a friend, Amer (Nizar Alani), whose parents are preparing to leave.

With a certain sense of the comic, and of the pathetic, Motaz overplays the head of the family, hanging sheets on the walls to seal the shell holes – and also to protect his daughter from prying eyes, in case a few onlookers are still hanging around… He is persuaded that he watches over the safety of Hala and Zeina, whereas by refusing to flee he exposes them to the most serious dangers.

emancipation tale

For Zeina, the flowery sheets that her father spreads are like flapping sails in the wind. She would like to become a fisherwoman aboard a boat and, in her eyes, the sky begins to sparkle like the sea. the desolation in the surrounding landscape of ruins.

Like the Lilac Fairy piercing the ceiling and appearing as if by magic in Donkey Skin (1970), by Jacques Demy, Zeina drops from the roof terrace (through the shell hole) and lands immediately on her bed, when she hears her father calling her in his big voice. Here she is again in her room, falsely docile. Faced with this exorbitant paternal authority, which confines women and decides for them, the adolescent asserts herself. In its second part, Nezuh – a term that evokes the displacement of souls and people – is part of the most expected codes of the emancipation tale.

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