Neighboring The MoonBy Reza Farahmand
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16.9
Resolution: 1920/ 10.80
Country of origin: Canada, Iran, Syria
Original version: Arabic
Available in: Arabic
Subtitled in: English
Screening format: DCP, Blu-Ray
Syrian sisters Juli and Maryam are like other teen girls their age: they love animals, makeup, and music. But unlike others, the sisters and their mother have been living for nine years in a cramped room inside Aleppo’s biggest hospital.
In many ways, Syrian sisters Juli and Maryam are like other teen girls their age: they love animals, makeup, and music. But unlike others, the sisters and their mother have been living for nine years in a cramped room inside Aleppo’s biggest hospital. With the Syrian uprising at a near standstill, their mother attends to COVID-19 patients while the two sisters form their own brigade of young hospital helpers. Spirited Juli ceaselessly voices her desire to escape their living situation, but this pits her against her mother, who prefers the safety of the hospital to an unpredictable life on the outside. Beautifully observed and interspersed with poetic moments of reverie between the girls, the film captures their day-to-day lives against the backdrop of the pandemic. What emerges is a touching portrait of a broken family dealing with the trauma of war, chasing an elusive dream of a normal life.
With the heavy load of the rough filmmaking experiences in Iraq during the war with ISIS, this time I go to Yarmouk in Syria which deems a place out of this world. Amidst the unfathomable scale of destruction, it feels as if I can’t free myself of the echoes of thousands of lost lives. And I remain gazed without being able to move. Suddenly, a rustling sound from within the rubbles switches my camera on and while I’m still astounded, the voices of exhausted but alive children take me to the world of wishful kids who in longing to return to their once solid homes, search for a ballad to remind them of the sweet smell of life.
Every day the Middle East gets involved in a destructive war that burns down homes with their beautiful smells and millions of beautiful moments and creates scenes that burn every viewer’s heart. But who, more than children, mothers, and fathers whose beautiful moments burn away, can feel this pain? Perhaps, this pain may get repeated for each one of them once or twice but the impression lasts a lifetime. If we suppose, however, that one of these victims remains alongside these burns for years on, without a way out, what kind of an emotional state can we imagine for that person?
Juli and her family have lost their father and their house in the war but this is not just a one-time bitter memory, because every day it’s been repeated in the worst possible way.
Juli is a 16-year-old girl trapped in a small room in the hospital. She doesn’t live in a tent in a refugee camp that may be far from the war but she’s set up a tent in the middle of the war amidst the outcries of millions of mothers and wives of war victims and has gradually grown up to the point that she herself has become part of the walls and the horrific moments of the Syrian war. Her only recreation now is perhaps hearing the cry of a newborn baby and gazing anxiously at the child’s future and this incident may not be that important because war is war and produces nothing but this.
What makes Juli and her moments exceptional for us, is the war she is waging against her mother in order to reach her little wish of having a house. Amidst these difficult and bloody years, she still breathes and holds on to her greatest wishes. Juli at the age of 16, symbolizing the next generation of adolescents in Syria, reminds us that bloodshed and darkness cannot destroy a family’s wish of having beautiful moments.
With this film Reza gives voice to a human drama that transcends geographical divisions and calendar time, casting light, with encounters and images, on the everyday life behind the continuous tragedy of civil wars, ferocious dictatorships, foreign invasions, and interference up to the murderous apocalypse of war. Different stories are joined in unity that goes beyond borders. War does not appear directly: we hear and see it in the battle of Juli and her mother is looking for a roof.