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Winner of the Orizzonti Extra Audience Award in Venice: NEZOUH by Soudade Kaadan

Arabian Moda x NEZOUH x Soudade Kaadan
Syrian director Soudade Kaadan, who brought home the Audience Award for her film Nezouh at The 79th Venice International Film Festival, spoke about her filmmaking methods, immigration, and representing her homeland Syria in Venice.

AM: What are some of your rituals before a movie project?
I watch a film on a daily basis, read books, go to museums and exhibitions, listen to music and film talks. I also do huge research work and then I meditate. After all this movement and the energy to discover new territories, I need a moment of serenity which helps me find my most surprising and intriguing ideas and images. I consider every film as a new challenge to grow artistically and humanly. It’s a journey, adventure, a challenge and an opportunity to growth.

AM: What are some of the challenges you faced on the set of Nezouh?
The biggest challenge was COVID19. To shoot during the pandemic was a complete nightmare and this was the last thing we needed to add on our daily dose of stress. The fear of halting the production and losing your cast and crew was real. Then it was the heat, we shot the film in august in Gaziantep in Turkey, as it is a film about war under the sun, and we had this feeling indeed while shooting under a 40-degree sun. Another challenge was transforming another city to make it look like yours, while still being authentic and sincere. This was a huge team work from production designers, set artists and VFX to make it look the Damascus I wanted to present. Even if the film has a fairytale approach, it’s deeply anchored in reality.

AM: In your opinion, why is the Syrian crisis so present in films from the region? And for how long will it dominate the scenarios?
It’s something we are still suffering from and from its consequences. It’s our personal and collective trauma and it lasted for 10 years. You can imagine the damage that a bloody horrific war can have on the people during 10 years, with this dark outcome? Arts and films are the reflection of our personal emotions and stories, our struggle and our pain and joy. Our feet are still deep in the swamp, trying to move out slowly. That’s why I might not make my third film about Syria, but I would understand if it would still dominate the storytelling for the next years.

AM: Your film talks about immigration. What are some of the dilemmas that this generation of immigrants are facing?
The dilemmas of expressing in a language that is not yours and identity questions are the same dilemmas from one generation to another and the same existential questions we suffer from on a daily basis. But what our generation is more aware of than before is that we also belong to a universal community now with the modern age, and this community is not limited with borders and chauvinism concepts. I might suffer that I can’t express as clearly with my English what I want to say in Arabic, yet I feel already home in London.

AM: You not only representing Syrian cinema in Venice but also won an Audience Award. How proud are you?
This is the second time I come to Venice with my fiction film. It is a milestone, as my first film was the first film in the history of Syrian cinema to participate in Venice and with my second, I’m still the only Syrian participating with a feature fiction film. Being in Venice with a non-expected genre about Syrian films proves that we can tell our stories differently, and that we are able to screen our film equally with international big productions. All this couldn’t have happened without the growing support of the programmers who knew me and believed in my vision and my journey as a filmmaker.

Arabian Moda x NEZOUH x Soudade Kaadan
Synopsis: An allegorical tale of female emancipation set amidst the Syrian conflict in Damascus, about a family who decides to stay behind in the besieged area. When a shell rips a giant hole in the roof of the building where 14-year-old Zeina and her family live, they are suddenly exposed to the outside world. One day a young boy living nearby lowers a rope through the opening in the family’s roof and Zeina discovers her first taste of freedom. Whilst her father is determined to stay in his home and not become a refugee, this new window opens up an unimaginable world of possibilities to her and her mother who now face a dilemma of whether to stay or leave.