Written by Reem Saleh, New Media, DFI
“There was no way of avoiding this new form of expression called ‘cinema’. So we all got infected. It was an important way to discover myself, to discover life and the reality I live in.” – Omar Amiralay, from Brigitte Lacombe and DFI’s “I Am Film” exhibit in 2010.
This is the reality of Omar Amiralay, who sadly left this world on 5th February 2011.
A Syrian filmmaker born in 1944, Omar Amiralay studied at La Fémis in Paris before returning to Syria in the early 70’s. He returned to a country he loved, with a passion transferred into a criticism through his eyes, through his lens. He spoke up.
For 40 years, his documentaries were a voice for human rights and freedom of expression, which resulted in most of his films being banned in Syria.
This is Amiralay.
This is Amiralay, whose documentary “A Flood in Baath Country” about the Syrian regime ensured its removal from the Carthage Film Festival.
This is Amiralay, who called for Syrians to withdraw from Lebanon, and for an end to the attacks on Syrian workers in Lebanon.
This is Amiralay who, just a few days before his death, signed a declaration, along with many other influential Syrian figures, in support of the protests in Egypt.
Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see his wishes realised.
Those who watch his films know what a rare talent he was, and his inspiration will remain for generations to come. Cinema with him knows no accident: every frame is a message and an authentic view for us to capture and learn from. As Albert Camus once said: “Every authentic work of art is a gift offered to the future.”
He is without a doubt one of the greatest Arab filmmakers of our time: someone whose work carries the many voices of injustice, bearing the consequences such statements might comprise.
This is Amiralay, and the world has lost a director, a mentor, a cinematographer and most of all, a human being who battled for what he believed in.
This is Amiralay, and as the title of one of his films will attest: “There Are So Many Things Still to Say”.