Whose Stories Will Be Remembered?

Abstract by Dima Saber

In September 2012, Yadan Draji crossed the Syrian Jordanian border on foot with a hard drive containing 12756 videos that he and four of his friends shot in the first 18 months of the uprising in Daraa. In 2020, documentary filmmaker Rami Farah reunited the surviving three on a theatre stage in Paris and confronts them with their own footage, as a way to reflect on their personal journeys as activists and archivists nearly ten years after the beginning of the revolution. 

‘Our memory belongs to us’ (2021) attempts to deal with the difficult ethical challenges facing filmmakers, activists, archivists, and researchers when attempting to constitute a narrative of an unfolding history. Who gets to tell the story of the Syrian uprising in the years to come? Whose stories will be remembered, and whose forgotten? Who does this archive belong to, and whose memory is shaped by these narratives? But also finally, and maybe most importantly what’s in it for those whose stories are being told? 

I have been involved in the production of this film since 2013, and will attempt, in my presentation, to answer some of these questions based on my experience working on the Daraa archive over the past 8 eight years. I will also talk you through my journey of using this archive as the basis of a larger Syrian Oral History Project which will document the experiences of over 100 Syrian image-makers from Damascus, Daraa, Hama, Homs, Aleppo and Raqqa, in an attempt to rehumanise the story of the Syrian uprising-war, by making space in the mainstream narrative for the Syrians’ own voices and often fraught subjectivities.

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