Kafranbel.. From Cloth Banners to Short Films

The Syrian Revolution in Three Minutes


Enab Baladi

From the very first days of the revolution, Kafar Nebbol took the responsibility of conveying the messages of the revolution to the public in the west.  Cloth banners were used to communicate in English about what is going on in Syria. More recently, after the Chemical massacre perpetrated by the regime forces in the Eastern Ghouta, Kafranbel’s activists faced a new challenge. The magnitude of the event and the “absurdity” of international reactions, which were limited to demanding the Assad regime to hand over its chemical weapons but allowing it to continue slaughtering civilians using every other type of weapons in its arsenal  “except the chemical”, prompted one of the activists to pursue a different course. Banners, he thought, have become banal. He embarked on making a short film inspired by the life of cavemen.

A member of the film crew explains the reasons for choosing caveman as the film’s lead character. The language of cavemen is universal and as such is understood by intellectuals or non-intellectuals, by young and old people alike. The tools and props needed for the set are also simple – given the scarcity of tools under the circumstances; communication with cavemen is easier. But more important was the fact that during that era, humanity was absent. The law of the jungle was the supreme law of the land.

Making the film “Three Minutes of Revolution”

In an interview with Enab Baladi, one of the activists who were involved in the making of the movie said that after agreeing on the idea of the film, the minutest details were consensually agreed upon including the bone pendant, hair, beard, etc.  [A decision was already taken not to identify anyone by name because the crew included civilians, activists, and members of the military from Kafranbel. Each member of the team had a role to play].

The crew made all the props by hand. It took them a day to prepare. They identified the material while others identified actors and extras. Four young girls were included in the acting; others worked on the set and made clothing using jute sacs.

Raed Al-Fares, director of information in Kafranbel said that ordinary people warmly embraced the idea. Shooting the film took approximately two hours. None of the actors knew the scenario beforehand but they performed so well exceeding all expectations. They were asked to act collectively. Individual movements of Bashar and Putin had to be cued when the cameras rolled. They succeeded in filming 13 scenes of which eight were used when the film was edited.

Making Wigs

 “This was the more difficult task in the production process”, says Raed. The film crew collected hair from barber saloons and a prototype were prepared. It turned out to be “too beautiful and well crafted” making it unfit for use by a caveman. At that point, they thought of inserting a balloon into a black plastic shopping bag. An adhesive was applied on the surface of the bag to which the hair was glued. They deflated the balloon when the adhesive dried. That is how they got the wild hair look.

They used the same plastic bags for beards, applied the adhesive and the hair then fitted the bags with straps to fit behind the actor’s ears. Hair was styled to cover the actor’s nose giving the appearance of a caveman’s beard.

The Banner is Still Used in the Movie

Banners continued to be used in the movie. The crew felt that they were a very important detail. The movie centers on a group of people who congregate and scream at the top of their lungs. A group of soldiers fire at them and withdraw. In the background, Russia, the United States and the European Union are perched on a hill observing the scene. Arab states are busy shelling sunflower seeds. Thus, the banner was the most efficient solution, with one exception: the material. The banner was made of sheepskin to suit the backdrop of the movie. The word “freedom” was expressed in a drawing of a bird flying out of the cave. Ahmad Jalal, Kafranbel’s painter, added the word Kafranbel in Hieroglyphics.

The Second Experiment

The film was not the makers’ first experience. Another film, “Support the American Attack” was made in English in which children, women and elderly men participated. It was screened during one of the sessions of the US congress. The New York Times published an interview with the Information office of Kafranbel which appeared on the first page of the paper.

A Collective Work with No Individual Names

According to Al-Fares, the crew produced one video almost weekly addressed to audiences in the West, audiences oblivious to what is going on in Syria. Theirs was an attempt to counter the self- promotion strides made by the regime in that arena. Neither we nor the opposition represented by the Coalition and the National Council has information machinery reaching out to audiences in the West. With help from the friends of Kafranbel, through Syrian and foreign activists, these videos are promoted in Western countries to attract attention to our cause.

Al-Fares stressed that every member of the team made a contribution to the endeavor. The team intends to produce a film every week. It will not be attributed to an individual but will remain a collective endeavor. The objective is to produce a film more potent in content and better directed than the preceding one even if this meant postponing the production by a full month. The important thing is for the idea to be conveyed to the public “From Kafranbel”. Al-Fares added that “when participants were asked to smear themselves with mud, remove their clothes and wear jute sacs, take off their shoes and walk barefoot on thorns they all participated willingly and wholeheartedly complied. This is not easy. They deserve a “Hats off”.

Al-Fares went on to say that the work spirit present in Kafranbel is lacking in many other places. Working with activists, members of the military, civilians, and revolutionaries is pleasant. Despite pressures and major demands, people are at ease working with the group. When you ask someone for help he enthusiastically obliges.  He added that one activist in the city offered to tear apart his clothes and his children’s clothes although the filming has nothing to do with his current revolutionary engagements. When they asked the Free Syrian Army for machine and handguns, the weapons were provided by the “Fursan Al-Haqq” Brigade. They also provided the sparks for the explosives’ barrel.  Al-Fares noted that cooperation between the military, the civilians and the activists is unique.

Kafranbel’s activists continue to strive to preserve the shining image of their city which built its reputation on the peaceful character and moderation of its revolutionary act. They are keen on conveying messages that serve the revolution and correct perceptions of it in view of recent accounts accusing it of extremism.

Self Critique

Commenting on how satisfied the film team was with the final product a member of the team said that the film lacked a scene that could have added to its aesthetic character and could have brought home the idea more poignantly. He believed actors should have continued to demonstrate even after Obama signaled Assad to continue his slaughter campaign against the Syrian people after turning over his chemical weapons.  This would have signaled the steadfastness and determination of the Syrian people despite the criminality.

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