A Stranger Came to Town - Accounts of the War in Syria
The 2012 "Battle of Aleppo" between Syrian government forces and rebel factions left the city in ruins. Thomas Vroege [Illumina Films]

A Stranger Came to Town: Accounts of the War in Syria

Four men. Four stories. Four alternative views of the battle for Aleppo.

Editor’s note: This film is no longer available to view online.

When the stories of the war in Syria are told will they be reduced to simple tales of good and evil? What will they include and what will they leave out? And will each be able to be summarised, like the old saying suggests, as A Stranger Came to Town?

There are four characters in this film, each from the Syrian city of Aleppo. Four men who once lived a stone’s throw away from one another, but who took four different paths as revolution, violence and chaos engulfed their city. Four men who now fear that their homeland may be lost to them forever.

I dream about checkpoints, about the army … You carry your fear with you.

by Ferhad, former Aleppo resident

There is Nahel, who organised one of the first underground protests in the city. “Yes, you put your life in the balance, you take great risks … but you know you’re doing so for your country.”

There is Ahmed, who, when faced with a choice between being conscripted into Bashar al-Assad‘s army or fighting alongside the rebels, joined the Free Syrian Army. “There was nothing else you could do. Fighting was the only option left.”

There is Ferhad, who fled the country for Europe, leaving behind his baby daughter and wife. “I dream about checkpoints, about the army …. You carry your fear with you.”

Then there is Issa, a photographer who documented the battle from his home in a building on the dividing line between East and West Aleppo. “I was woken up by the sound of a helicopter, very early one morning. Members of a militia were setting up a roadblock under my window.”

Four men through whose eyes four alternative views of the battle for Aleppo unfold in A Stranger Came to Town.