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Witness

The Revolution is Being Televised

The story of six Syrian activists who risk their lives to capture the horrific daily realities of the conflict.

Last updated: 20 Apr 2014 07:44
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Filmmaker: Adam Pletts 

This film tells the story of six media activists in Syria.

Amidst the chaos of the uprising they struggle to tell the story of Qusayr, their town to the outside world. They risk their lives on a daily basis coming under attack from the regular and indiscriminate heavy shelling.

The Revolution Is Being Televised follows the work of Trad and five friends, as they capture the horrific realities of life in Syria, edit material together and argue about how they get it out to the rest of the world.

This is their personal story - one of loss of family members, of survival and of fighting for a cause - where the risks and losses are made worthwhile by their first intoxicating taste of freedom.

Filmmaker's view

By Adam Pletts 

Shot over two months in the summer of 2012, in Qusayr, Homs province, a town being shelled on a daily basis, this documentary looks at the lives of a group of ordinary young men, who formed a media centre to tell the story of their town to the outside world, while struggling to come to terms with their own personal losses and life under siege.

Anyone who has followed the Syrian revolution will have become accustomed to hearing news anchors describing a YouTube video from Syria shot by activists, the validity of which they cannot verify.

It has become one of the defining features of the coverage of this increasingly brutal war. But from the broadcasters' perspective, it was often a necessity to use this footage.

Restrictions on foreign media and the risks of operating in what very quickly became a treacherous environment, frequently left them unable to reach the story. And those journalists who did often risked their lives in getting to the stories.

It is perhaps the first time that the story of a war has been told to such an extent by the very people living through that conflict.

From the activists’ point of view, sharing their stories was liberating, something they had never before been allowed to indulge in -- defying years of censorship was in itself an embodiment of their struggle and an outlet for their frustrations.

Having watched the revolutions of the Arab Spring, they were well aware of the impact social and conventional media can have in shaping opinion and mobilising both external and internal forces to take action.

Enabled by everyday technology, which more than a decade ago was not available to the masses, and even less so in Syria, they have embraced a mixture of activism and news provision.

At the same time as informing the world, it has raised questions about this kind of citizen journalism, which though partial, has often been the only source of news available, and the only witness to the collapse of a nation.

And Bashar al-Assad’s government has also been aware of the value of media portrayals. Right from the start they have insisted they are fighting "terrorists", a prophecy that is partly becoming reality and was always likely to do so as Syria descends into chaos.

On the one hand, this descent is drowning the moderate voices and on the other it is creating fertile territory for fighters, who for ideological reasons alone would have been drawn to combat al-Assad’s self-styled secular dictatorship.

The Syrian conflict now has many facades -- it is at once a proxy war between Sunni and Shia powers, a still broader proxy struggle for influence reminiscent of cold war days, a popular struggle for freedom against a dictatorship and an increasingly sectarian war.

Yet even in a Syria, where 100,000 deaths have occurred as the result of the combat, over a million refugees, and four million who have been internally displaced, there are still moderate voices.

They exist on both sides of the divide, and this is the story of one of those groups, who have turned to media rather than weapons.

UPDATE: 

Tragically, Trad Zhoury, the lead character in “The Revolution is being Televised” was hit by shrapnel from a mortar explosion on February 15 2014, near Qalamoun in western Syria, close to the Lebanese border.

He was transported to a hospital in Lebanon where he passed away on February 21 2014. Although he had both the means and opportunities to leave Syria, he had chosen to continue working as an activist cameraman, supporting the Syrian Opposition, long after his hometown of Qusayr fell to the Syrian army and Hizbullah forces in May 2013.

The fact that he continued filming when he could have left was testament to his dedication to his work, which was often harrowing in its content and breathtaking in its bravery.

His footage will remain an important part of a broader body of work by activists throughout Syria, who shed light on the terrible events that have taken place there.

Trad died with his camera in his hand, filming to the last moment.

Muhanad Muhebelldien, one of Trad’s colleagues and a character in “The Revolution is Being Televised”, was also tragically killed by a mortar explosion near Qalamoun on January 22 2014.

He, too, had continued to work as a cameraman though unlike Trad, he had taken to armed conflict, earning the nickname “double weapon” from fellow fighters, in reference to his always keeping both his camera and his gun with him.

 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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