This entry was posted on May 9th, 2020

By Ivonne Sheen

As part of Visions du Reel’s International Competition Purple Sea (2020), by sirian filmmakers Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed, stands out as a profound and poetical documentary essay about the survival of co-director Amel Alzakout during the sinking of the boat on which she was fleeing Syria. This is the second collaboration of both artists.

The film has a cinema verité approach which transcends the form and becomes into a political evidence of exile’s struggle. All our visual and sound experience is an unstable and partially submerged camera that Amel is trying to hold, as an attempt of testimony. Deep and light blue, legs floating in water, orange lifejackets, constante emergency whistles. We wait. Suddenly the appearance of an helicopter creates a sense of ubiquity about this people in a historical, political and war context. The film is guided by a diary and essayistic testimony of Amel which reflects on the affective impact that this experience involves in one’s intimate life and spirit. Even though the film enunciates a one person voice, all of the other passenger’s voices resonate and manifest along with her testimony. Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed create a sort of dreamy sensation of floating that portraits a staggering lost of skyline, by taking advantage of the raw footage that involve a limited vision of the experience and transmites the sensation of holding on to what the voice over in the presente deeply remembers about the experience and dreams.

Syria Self-Portrait (2014), by Wiam Simav Bedirxan and Ossama Mohammed, is another sirian verité essayistic documentary that also comprehends footage, which testifies a face to face experience of the atrocities of war. Both films out stands for their put in value of ordinary people’s experiential testimony as powerful documents that official history will never grasp and will try to overshadow. Purple Sea unfolds itself as a poetical floating wait which also involve existential questions strongly tied to the experience of being a refugee, of being in a constant transitory moment of survival. The film is also a catharsis about the relation in between countries of Europe and refugees, in which the first ones bright as an opportunity for dreams and tranquility, but at the same time are an helicopter overflying them, recording them, staring at them and deciding what is best to do for them that wouldn’t mean a prejudicial situation for their status of power.

Purple Sea is a reminder of the struggles that multiply and quietly happen in this world, one above another and tangling as new chapters of our same unequal and war-phile History.

International Competition
Directors: Amel Alzakout, Khaled Abdulwahed
Germany, 2020, 67’