The Syrian film director, Soudade Kaadan, whose latest work, The Day I Lost My Shadow, had earlier been to Venice and Toronto movie festivals, was reportedly denied an entry visa to Egypt. Her work was, however, screened as scheduled on Saturday at the ongoing El Gouna Film Festival's second edition.
The Day I Lost My Shadow picked the Lion of the Future Award for Young Moviemakers at Venice early this month.
Kaadan was able to get her visa for Italy (for Venice) and Canada (Toronto) as well for the UK (for the upcoming London Film Festival).
She told the press the other day that the visa refusal was “not political, but because I am a Syrian”.
Full of symbolism, The Day I Lost My Shadow is set in 2012 Damascus – where the war is all set to explode— and plots the painful story of a young mother with a little boy who goes in search of a cooking gas cylinder. She says in the course of her travails, fraught with tension, uncertainty and the risk of being killed by snipers, that she wants to make a simple, but hot meal for her little boy.
The mother is a pharmacist, Sana (Saswan Arsheel), and her son is Khalil (Ahmad Morhaf Al Ali), and the movie shows us right at the beginning the kind of terror which prevails in Syria. As Sana rushes back home from her pharmacy through gunfire and a funeral at her doorstep only to beat water rationing in order to do her laundry, the electricity goes off. Worse, the gas supply finishes as well. So, she steps out to get a cylinder, and throws herself right into unimaginable danger.
Based on a folk saying that one without a shadow is a person without a soul, Kaadan gives a new twist to this. She appears to be telling us that those without a shadow are those who have been traumatised by the brutality of war. And the helmer highlights this with a touch of brilliance as we see Sana and two of her associates, a brother and sister, face the most gruesome of events with soldiers and government allies trigger happy to the core. As the three try and make their way back home in Damascus, each minute seems like a horrifying death trap -- vividly captured by the haunted expressions of Arsheel.
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The Day I Lost My Shadow may seem like a fantasy of sorts, a little unreal, a little mysterious, a little make-believe, but I could not miss the core point the auteur was trying to make: how wars rob men and women of their self-pride and self-esteem, how they scare and humiliate people, taking them far away from their homes and their beloved folks.
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran is now covering the El Gouna Film Festival)