Syrian filmmaker speaks out at Cannes Festival

Ahmed Atef in Cannes, France, Saturday 14 May 2011

Syrian filmmaker Osama Mohammed presents his works at Cannes Film Festival and contributes to discussions about making films in a dictatorship

Osama Mohammed

"Everything was decided very quickly," commented the renowned Syrian filmmaker Osama Mohammed, on his arrival at the Cannes Film Festival, where his movie has been invited to participate within the Fortnight sidebar. The director also headed the panel discussion entitled, "Making films in a dictatorship."

Born in 1954, Osama Mohammed has made only two feature films: Stars in Broad Daylight (1988) presented at Directors' Fortnight, and Sacrifices (2002), shown in the selection called Un Certain Regard (A Certain Glance or A Particular Outlook), a section of the Cannes Film Festival's official selection.

During the discussion the filmmaker said that: "Today, we look at another film that deals with death and tragedy, but also of hope. For fifty years Syrians have not defended their rights."

Two weeks ago with his Syrian colleagues, he instigated a petition that called on "filmmakers worldwide to help stop the killing by exposing it, denouncing the carnage and declaring their solidarity with the Syrian people and their dreams of justice, equality and freedom."

Among the 1,100 signatories are the film directors Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Jean-Luc Godard, Olivier Assayas, Catherine Breillat, and actresses Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche.

Mohammed spoke of Riyadh Seif, the voice of the opposition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and who, according to Le Monde was arrested by the Syrian security forces on 6 May.

"Seif is a friend, a wonderful man and close to his people. He is one of those who can represent the people and embody the future of Syria," explained the director speaking on the terrace of a luxury hotel in Cannes on Thursday evening, 12 May.

"Tyranny is killing cinema creators," he reflected. "The authorities say that these films are not for the people. They are subjective and elitist."

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