THIS SCREENING IS PART OF ARAB SPRING / ARAB FALL, CURATED BY ZEINA ZAHREDDINE.
*Film screening is a work in progress.
In the face of the bitter horror of the Syrian situation, three young artists (Sobhi, Hussein, and Afraa) attempt to find some meaning in their lives through art and theatre. These might seem like paltry weapons against Scud missiles, but they are the only things these young artists/activists have. Fragmented and intimate, the narrative moves between the shattered Syrian city of Aleppo to Turkey and Beirut. In cramped messy apartments, noisy karaoke bars, and city streets, the three friends talk about their experiences, write dialogue, and make puppets for theatrical productions. But you get the sense that their attempts to winnow in on small things, to make art that can be fashioned by hand, is a means to regain some sense of control. Skin is very much a young filmmaker’s work. Sobhi, Hussein, and Afra are like young people anywhere, uncertain about the future, their ambition spiked with weary cynicism and a protective irony. But the bleak reality of their homeland is unshakeable. Through endless cigarettes and drunken late night discussions, they circle back to Syria, and to the revolution.
Part of our curated series on new Arab cinema (please see Zeina Zahreddine’s terrific essay here), Skin is very much a film that is attempting something new. In a world blown apart by seemingly endless violence and horror, what does art even mean? In this way, director Afraa Batous is following in a long line of cultural tradition that dates back to Goya’s Black Paintings or Picasso’s Guernica. -DW