The film "Nezouh" by Soudade Kaadan takes viewers to the heart of the Syrian conflict, where 14-year-old Zeina and her parents still live in their besieged neighborhood in Damascus. When a missile creates a gaping hole in their house, Zeina discovers a window that opens to a world of unimaginable possibilities. Finding solace in sleeping under the stars, she befriends Amer, a same-aged neighbor. However, as the violence of the conflict intensifies, Zeina and her parents are forced to leave, but her father refuses to become a refugee. Faced with a life-or-death dilemma, Zeina and her mother must make a crucial decision.
"Nezouh" sets itself apart from other films about Syrian refugees by avoiding typical stereotypes. Director Soudade Kaadan aimed to create a work that portrays Syrian refugees as ordinary human beings. She wanted to show that this family could be any family facing war, questioning whether it's better to stay or abandon everything. For her, the more a story is grounded in a local reality, the more it becomes universal. She chose the simple metaphor of a family house undergoing trials in Damascus.
In a city where houses were usually closed, protected by curtains to preserve neighbors' privacy, bombings created gaping holes in the roofs, offering open windows to the starry sky. This symbol represents the change not only in the physical aspect of houses but also in family dynamics when women take the lead. Soudade Kaadan also wanted to evoke notions of possibility and hope through this celestial window.
Writing the screenplay for "Nezouh" presented several challenges for Soudade Kaadan. She sought to find a balance between personal stories, fictional plot, the reality of war, and magical realism. How to depict war without relying on bombing scenes often seen in such films? How to evoke danger without showing it on screen? How to reveal the horror of the conflict without using shocking images? These questions led her to explore alternative narrative forms and prioritize precious moments of characters' daily lives.
The relationship between the mother and daughter is at the core of "Nezouh's" story. Soudade Kaadan highlights the parallels that emerge between these two generations of women. Following the partial destruction of their house, both undergo transformations: the daughter opens up to the outside world while the mother decides to leave the city. The pivotal moment when they make this decision occurs during a dance scene, where the mother prepares belongings to flee and the daughter overcomes her fear of emptiness by climbing a rope. The director seeks to show that the most important decisions are often made in the most ordinary moments of life.
Despite belonging to different generations, the mother, Hala, and the daughter share similar reactions to adversity. Hala wants to offer Zeina a different future from her own, but they both share dreams and hopes, particularly as they contemplate images of the sea that doesn't exist in Damascus. Despite the dark reality surrounding them, they refuse to succumb to the traditional dynamics of Damascus's patriarchal society.
By choosing a unique metaphorical approach and focusing on the characters' personal stories, Soudade Kaadan offers viewers a unique perspective on Syrian refugees. "Nezouh" reminds us that behind conflicts and tragedies, there are individuals seeking to preserve their humanity and find hope even in the most desperate situations.
In conclusion, "Nezouh" by Soudade Kaadan offers a captivating and nuanced perspective on the reality of Syrian refugees. By avoiding the usual stereotypes, the film shines a light on the strength and resilience of individuals who struggle to preserve their humanity amidst the chaos of war. Through a unique metaphorical approach, Kaadan manages to touch the audience's hearts by showing that behind every refugee story, there are dreams, hopes, and a determination to find a better future.