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Photo courtesy of Samah Safi Bayazid / Twitter

Putting a Face to the Crisis: The Bayazids and Their Films

In a world where news is sensationalized and tragedies are reported as statistics, it is easy to lose touch with the fact that these statistics have faces. With the Syrian Civil War approaching its seventh year, the lives of thousands of innocent people, particularly women and children, have been lost in a sea (literally) of media sensationalism.

Enter the Bayazids.

Muhammad and Samah Safi Bayazid, husband-and-wife Syrian filmmakers, are giving voice to those who have been stripped of sound. This past Tuesday, the award-winning duo screened two short films, Orshena and Fireplace, for the Boston College community in an attempt to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Through carefully chosen visuals and music, Orshena tells the story of a father coping with the loss of his daughter as a result of the war. Orshena translates to “land of peace” in the ancient Syriac language, and is a metaphor for the inner peace that many Syrians will never be able to find due to the intense trauma they face. The film serves as a reminder of the 5,000 migrants who have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea, 600 of whom were children, in hopes of finding safety.

Fireplace is a narrative short film inspired by the iconic photo of Omran Daqneesh, “the boy in the ambulance.” The shocking photo depicts five-year-old Omran sitting quietly in the back of an ambulance, covered in dust and rubble, just after a military airstrike. The image raised a global media uproar, yet the press failed to mention Omran’s older brother Ali, who died due to severe injuries. The Bayazids pay homage to Ali in their poignant film and attempt to represent the emotional state of sufferers through poetic images and symbolism.

Both films do not contain any dialogue, a strategic choice by the filmmakers. This powerful move captures the horrific circumstances and pain of many Syrians and truly does let the art speak for itself. “Storytelling is more important than dialogue,” said Muhammed Bayazid. The filmmakers aim to transcend labels of attacker and victim, rather they want to show that these people are human and are all suffering from an unjust situation. “The issues of refugees is beyond sides—it’s a universal thing.”

In response to criticism of the refugee influx, the Bayazids use their films to depict the adversity and trauma of many migrants. The power of narrative short films may help the world have more compassion towards the plight of Syrian refugees and potentially encourage resolutions.

Although some may not view film as a pragmatic method for resolution, the Bayazids expressed their belief in the power of informing people and telling necessary stories. It is the responsibility of a filmmaker to tell the stories of those who would otherwise be forgotten, for filmmaking is a powerful tool that can bring the global community together to push for change. The influence of storytelling is not to be underestimated, especially in times of turmoil and chaos.

When asked how they maintain hope in a crisis that seems so dire and relentless, the Bayazids simply responded, “We don’t have another choice.”