Due to the fact that I’m mildly obsessed with all things Arabic, it is only fitting that I found myself perusing the Arab-British Centre’s website late last week. While I’m interested in the actual events, I’m also interested in finding local Arabic speakers who may want to be friends (and practice speaking)! While perusing their events directory I ran across a documentary (Shout) at the Barbican that totally piqued my interest.
As the synopsis states, the movie is about two young men, Ezat and Bayan, born in Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and their journey as they decide to head to Damascus for university. It follows them and a third party, Mahmoud, as they live their lives in Syria, having to choose between their new lives in Damascus and their family and friends in Golan Heights (هضبة الجولان in Arabic). As an American, I feel like my time at the LSE has exposed me to a decent amount of information about the situation in this region. My flatmate’s dissertation was around the issue of facilitating Palestinian/Israeli relations through the use of edutainment/media; thus, we had many a conversation in my bedroom about the real life issues facing young people our age. Golan Heights, however, seems to be an area that is kind of forgotten (something that the panel touched on during the discussion). We frequently refer to Gaza or the West Bank, but rarely do we hear about the situation in Golan Heights. The movie, entitled ‘Shout’, is in reference to the Shouting Hill, and the movie does well to show the bizarre reality of the separation of the territories. The two boys, while studying in Damascus, head to the hill to shout to their families and friends in their hometown of Majdal Shams in the Golan. Despite being so close in proximity, they aren’t allowed to venture any further. They can’t cross the border or see their families face-to-face; shouting across the open divide is the closest that they come.
For being 75 minutes long, I found it to be an incredible portrayal of the situation facing youth (and families) in the Golan. After the movie, there was a Q & A session with Sabine Lubbe Bakker (the co-director), Chris Doyle (Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding) and Shaza Shannan (from the British Syrian Society). Hearing their insight and the questions from the audience made the whole event all the more interesting. Listening to discussion on the restrictions in the area, the difficult decisions facing the youth (do I stay in Damascus and begin a life for myself and never see my family again or do I head back to Golan Heights and lose the chance to ever return to Syria?) and hearing the way that the film was received by Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs made for an interesting discussion. At the very least, it left me with many things to think about and all the more reason to want to head to the Middle East to see the issues facing my cohort in the rest of the world.
For many of us (speaking as an American), these are issues we never have to face; issues we never have to consider or deal with. They should, however, be issues that we understand. I honestly feel that living in a bubble where you fail to realize issues outside of your own local or national community is a sin. I feel very fortunate to have been born into a Californian family where these are issues that I don’t personally have to face, but it doesn’t mean that they’re issues that I should disregard. I realize that venturing into the Middle East may not be on everyone’s agenda, but taking a moment to watch documentaries like this to (attempt to) understand a bit more of what’s going on in the region is definitely a step in the right direction.
xoxo from London,