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Review: Return to Homs

Review Return to Homs 1

— by BEV QUESTAD —

The new Homs sidewalk is a passage through the crashed out walls of uninhabited apartments inside bombed-out buildings. If you want to get somewhere, just take a mallet and make holes in a series of walls. Eventually you will make it to the end of the block where you can rush to the next series of buildings and bash your way through the next series of vacant rooms.

Homs, the third largest city in Syria, became the center for the Syrian uprising in 2011. At the root of its conflict was increasing frustration over autocratic rule by an increasingly repressive dictatorship and years of chronic unemployment. Trying to walk out on the street is a suicide mission.

This sad doc chronicles a rebel youth leader from Homs. He is good-looking charismatic soccer player, Abdul Basset Saroot. He has the gift of speech and song. He leads a crowd into a frenzied chant of nationalistic nostalgia and inspiration. Then he leads a group of rebels in a clandestine sortie to rout the government forces.

The doc is both an expose on the 2011-12 Battle of Homs and a tribute to Basset.

Photo-journalists and ordinary citizens with cell phone cameras thought their images to the world of al-Assad’s violent reaction to their peaceful protests would make a difference. They thought it “would shake the world to its core.” But instead “the world watches what is happening – how we’re getting killed, one by one … while it remains as silent as a graveyard.”

They thought the images of the killing and devastation by the al-Assad government would make a difference. But now they just comprise a record of what happened – nothing more.

A policy of sovereign respect is integral in the United Nations Charter. As long as a nation is not waging genocide and not forcing its way across an unfriendly border, the UN countries pledge support for the status quo as part of their agreement to the UN Charter.

Despite this sovereign support, in 2012 the UN appointed Kofi Annan as the Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, to help find a resolution to the ongoing conflict. Becoming quickly frustrated Annan left the position, leaving the Syrian rebels demoralized.

In “Return to Homs” we see a city destroyed by its government and a man gradually losing everything, including his ability to play soccer (leg shattered with shrapnel). While the world and the UN stand by monitoring the catastrophe, Basset and his rebels’ strength is tested.

“Return to Homs” is part of the Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film series playing at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon, through Nov. 6‏.

Review Return to Homs 2

Film Credits
Director/Writer: Talal Derki
Producers: Orwa Nyrabia and Hans Robert Eisenhauer
Camera: Kahtan Hassoun, Ossama Al Homsi, Talal Derki and Orwa Nyrabia
Language: Arabic with English subtitles
Runtime: 94 minutes
Release: 2014
Trailer: http://youtu.be/oYMhVE2iJCk
Website: http://www.returntohoms.com/
Available now on Vimeo on Demand or purchase for $4 on website. 

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