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Culture Under Fire: Creative Resistance in Syria

Past Event

Reel Festivals returns for its fifth year with Reel Syria 2012, in association with Mosaic Initiative for Syria, supporting Syrian artists and showcasing Syrian culture to a UK audience. At a time when Syria is engulfed in violent conflict, the festival will present a nuanced portrait of the country and its people. On the anniversary of the uprising, Mosaic Initiative for Syria will also raise funds for Syrians displaced and affected by the current violent crackdown.

On Friday 16th March join some of Syria's best-known authors and artists for a discussion of cultural repression and resistance. Featuring novelists Manhal Alsarraj and Mamdouh Azzam, musician Steve Chandra Savale, academic Donatella Della Ratta, cartoonist Ali Ferzat and chaired by Robin Yassin-Kassab. Presented in association with Index on Censorship. Followed by a screening of Syrian film, 'Zabad', plus Q&A with the director, Reem Ali.


Ali Ferzat is a celebrated Syrian cartoonist who was awarded the 2011 Press Freedom Prize by Reporters Without Borders and Le Monde. In 2000, Ferzat launched the satirical newspaper, Al-Domari, which was forced to close three years later by the Ba'ath authorities, and his cartoons have been banned in several Arab countries. Since the popular uprising began in Syria in March 2011, he has made the government's violent crackdown on protests the central theme of his work. For denouncing the corruption and abuses of Bashar Al-Assad’s rule, he was attacked in August by masked gunmen, who broke his hands as a warning. He has been nominated for Index on Censorship's 2012 award for artists, filmmakers and writers whose work asserts artistic freedom and battles against repression and injustice.

Manhal Alsarraj is an award winning Syrian author. She has published a number of books including Overcoming The Bridge (1997) and As the River Must (2000), which was banned from publication in Syria  as it dealt with the Hama massacre of 1982, and On My Chest (2007). Her most recent novel was Defiant Blood, released in 2011 by Dar al-Adab.

Mamdouh Azzam is a Syrian novelist, whose works are a damning portrait of life under a dictatorship, as well as being beautiful works of literature. His novel Rain Palace (1998) was banned by the Ministry of Culture for religious/political reasons and his latest novel, Women of the Imagination (2011), is a story of a book-obsessed teacher living under the Ba'athist regime.

Steve Chandra Savale, also known by his stage names Chandrasonic and best known for his punk rave aesthetic as the guitarist for the ground-breaking British band Asian Dub Foundation. In 2009, he presented a series of documentaries for Al-Jazeera English called Music of Resistance.

Donatella Della Ratta is an academic specializing in the study of Syrian cultural production at the University of Copenhagen and the Danish Institute in Damascus. Author of several articles for leading scholarly journals, she focuses on culture of resistance in Syria and its implications.

Robin Yassin-Kassab's first novel The Road from Damascus is published by Penguin. He is currently working on his second novel while co-editing The Critical Muslim, a new quarterly magazine, and www.pulsemedia.org. He writes book reviews and political pieces for the British and international press, and blogs at www.qunfuz.com.

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