The word ‘necessary’ is perfect to describe Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, a film that is as difficult to watch as it is important. As explained by its opening title card, the film is constructed out of 1,001 images/videos taken from 1,001 Syrians – these videos, regularly drawn from crude cameraphones and interrupted by the trill of message alerts, are defined by bloody brutality. Protests are met with gunfire, residential areas are bombed, children are tortured. It’s a devastating document of suffering, its many hundred camera operators speaking their pain and loss through the language of cinema.
This is not merely a cracked chronicle of the tragedy of modern Syria, however; rather than providing a narrative or historical context for these events, directors Ossama Mohammed – living in Paris – and Wiam Simav – who remains in Syria – provide a self-reflexive perspective on the material, interspersing the footage with their online conversations. They mention Hiroshima mon amour; like that film, Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait refracts an incomprehensive global tragedy through a both personal experience and post-modern art. This approach to the material provides the required distance from the immense woe presented on-screen, inviting an aesthetic and intellectual reflection to counterbalance the emotional trauma.