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Film Fest Opinion Reviews

‘Resistance is Life’ gives the Kobane resistance a face and a name

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“Resistance is Life” won the award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival. 

When talking about the Syrian refugee crisis and the ongoing conflict in Syria people often time speak in abstracts, “war,” “conflict,” “government,” “revolution,” or statistics, “6 years of conflict,” “approximately 1 million Syrians killed” – huge concepts and numbers with no humans or heart to which we can attach.

But a child – the sound of their voice, or their smile, or lack thereof – has the power to hit much closer to home. And that is the beauty of Apo W. Bazidi’s “Resistance is Life.”

The documentary tells the story of Kobane and the Syrian Civil War through the eyes of 8-year-old Evlin, and leads the audience to a better understanding what is really going on, what’s at stake for these people and what makes them so resilient and resistant.

The true beauty of documentary filmmaking is in the stories that find the filmmakers, not the ones the filmmakers go out to find. And that was precisely the case in this film. Bazidi had been volunteering at the refugee camp (located at the Turkish/Syrian border) when he met Evlin. And Evlin, full of personality and verve, popped up in front of his camera one day and asked him when he was going to interview her.

And so he did, and through the eyes of one girl, we understand the resistance of an entire people.

We closely follow Evlin and her family of four (Mom, Dad and two younger brothers), as they navigate life in the camp. We see a clear and genuine bond formed between Bazidi and the family as they open up about life in the camp, the cold weather, fear of losing one another, of never going back home. We get wide shots of them together as this happens, allowing us to see each of their reactions to each other’s words and Evlin and her two brothers occasionally commenting. Her brother, for example, after her mother broke down explaining them fleeing Kobane, chimed in, saying to his mother, “you didn’t say we made it,” with a smile on his face.

The heart of the film and the beauty of this documentation lies in Bazidi’s ability to capture these peoples smiles, their hope, and their heart. Whether it be the little boy reminding his mother that despite the struggles and hardship they made it through, or seeing the strength and resistance of people at the front lines of the war.

The editor blends together clips of these front-liners – YPG (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel – People’s Protection Units) guerilla soldiers that are anywhere from 18 years old to 60 years old, male and female, Kurdish and foreign – with poignant moments of Evlin at school in a tent, making make-shift playgrounds and playing “journalist” with her camera.

And in doing so Bazidi and his team never allow us to dwell on the doom; he never draws out moments of great disparity and, instead, Bazidi shows us hope by following these people as they revel in whatever normalcy they’ve been given and accept and take control of their circumstances. He shows us resilience through the people who embody it the most.

We may hear gunshots, grenades and other warfare tactics, but we also seeing children on a swing set and we hear little Evlin singing uplifting songs about loving Kobane.

Bazidi goes deep. His team shows the reality of the situation but makes it clear that these people have taken initiative. With only foreign assistance spanning one-tenth of the narrative, he focuses more on the protectors of Kobane, the locals who didn’t wait for outside help but took matters into their own hands.

In 72 minutes, and through plenty of eyes and mouths, Bazidi and his crew humanize the Syrian crisis. They give it a face, a voice, a heart and a soul to the statistics. They give us Evlin and, through remarkable documentation of her resistance, they remind us that this is about people, their power, and their patriotism.

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Asli Shebe

Asli Shebe is a senior writing major from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She began working for District in 2014 as a staff writer, then copy editor, A&E editor, Chief Assignment editor and finally, Editor-in-Chief in 2017. Asli currently holds the record for obtaining the most job titles during her time at District. When she’s not writing for District you can find her biking around the Historic District of Savannah at odd hours of the day.

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