Contemporary World Cinema

Insyriated

Philippe Van Leeuw

Insyriated 01

Trapped inside her house in a city under siege, a mother of three turns her flat into a safe harbour for her family and neighbours in an attempt to protect them from the war raging on the streets of Damascus, in the latest from Philippe Van Leeuw (The Life of Jesus).

Philippe Van Leeuw's intense, suffocating drama, Insyriated, brings audiences a rare look at a conflict zone from the inside... literally. Shot almost entirely within the confines of a few rooms in a blockaded middle-class Damascus apartment, the latest film from this Belgian cinematographer-turned-director illustrates the looming and very real terror that presides over one extended family in the course of a single day.

Protected only by the balcony's window lattice and a wooden deadbolt on the apartment door, little stands between the residents — a multi-generational family joined by a neighbouring couple with a young baby — and the war just outside their walls. But life must go on. Despite a shortage of water and fresh food, household matriarch, Oum Yazan (played by legendary Palestinian actor Hiam Abbass) attempts to maintain daily domestic routines. She does her best to impose loving order, even when that means withholding information or keeping everyone confined to the tiny kitchen with personal music devices and colouring books as company. But with the seemingly endless sniper attacks just beyond the apartment's windows and imposing knocks at their bolted door, how long can she keep them safe?

Through the expressive performances of his talented ensemble cast, many of whom are Syrian refugees themselves, and the film's superb sound design, the terrorizing violence of war and the fear it inspires are omnipresent. These elements, coupled with Virginie Surdej's fluid, urgent photography, mean we are never permitted to forget that in wartorn Syria, death may await just outside — or even inside — the door.

KERRI CRADDOCK

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