Since the Vietnam War, it has become natural for people to sit in front of their screens and watch the current wars as part of their evening routine. But is this really how it should be? The documentary film The War Show directed by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon refuses this thesis, and instead of showing another sequence full of fights, it tells the story of a group of friends trying to survive the Syrian Civil War.
The War Show captures the recent history of Syria through the eyes of Obaidah Zytoon and her friends from the revolution, which took place as part of the Arab Spring in 2011, to today’s bloody civil war that has forced millions of people to leave Syria and find a new home elsewhere. The film that is a footprint of the escalation of the events in Syria consists of seven chapters: Revolution, Oppression, Resistance, Siege, Memoir, Frontlines and Extremism. Each of them reflects on a particular period of Syrian history. Obaidah and her friends tell all the stories and detail all the events, which adds intimacy to the film, and creates a familiar atmosphere to many.
This is exactly the reason why audience members can easily identify with the characters who are surrounded by the images of the war, but they are more important than that. They are all against the Assad regime and want to bring change to Syria, which means they are in constant danger. The viewers follow them everywhere: they are with them in the streets protesting against the regime, in their homes listening to their worrisome conversations or on their holidays. They get to know them, all the tiny details of their strong and unbreakable friendship and love, and they see them either die or survive.
No one would deny that we have been living en era when the sequences of wars – such as the Syrian Civil War – are part of everyday life. For the majority of people sitting in the shelter of their cosy and comfortable home, those are only the images of distant reality, a spectacular event, but for millions of people, those spectacular images mean in fact the devastating reality. The Syrian Civil War is not an exception either, and the rule is given: the more disturbing the footage is, the more attention broadcasters can probably get. As a consequence of that, individuals get lost along the way, and former citizens become a faceless group of mass. This is without doubt not only the fault of the media but of the people who let themselves entertained by the endless series of bloody images that are trickling into the living room unstoppably.
This is what Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon refuse to contribute to, and this is even reflected on in the documentary. They focus on the faces, the personal stories, and question the way in which the Syrian war is mediatised. The War Show is definitely not a show, a spectacular, but an intimate story of a group of friends who dared to dream about a freedom, which no one knows what it is like. As they say in the film: “No one born and raised in Syria can define freedom, because they have never experienced it.”
The War Show is an important film about an important issue that uses the image of everyday life instead of the noisy and bloody scenes of the war with explosions and guns. While it gives an audience another image of the Syrian Civil War, it is also a love letter to all of Obaidah’s friends. It’s their story, and their life and death.