By McKenzie Marshall, Contributing Writer
A screening of Sean McAllister’s “A Syrian Love Story” was hosted by The Frontline Club on Wednesday, September 24 to show people what’s really happening in Syria. The screening was followed by a panel discussion.
The film focused on a Syrian family struggling to keep their family together during a revolution of over throwing the Assad regime. McAllister followed the couple and their two children for five years. Over the years, the family fought for freedom but eventually fled to safety as their homeland was tore apart.
Amer Daoud, 45, and Raghda Hasan, 40, fell in love while communicating through a small hole in the wall between their neighboring prison cells.
In the beginning of McAllister’s filming, Hasan was in prison again for speaking out against the Assad dictatorship. “I feared I will never see my family again and that they will kill me here,” Hasan said.
When Hasan returned home, she never could get the images of what she saw in prison of the brutal killings out of her head. “Last night, she woke up screaming from having a nightmare of prison. I kept telling her, you’re not there, you’re not there anymore,” Daoud said.
The divide in the Syrian people was prevalent throughout the movie. “There are some Syrian’s who really believe what’s happening has nothing to do with the government,” said McAllister during the panel discussion. “I say to these people how can you really believe that, your people are dying in the masses because of the government,” adds Daoud during the discussion.
McAllister struggled to get people to talk about the Syrian government on camera because they feared getting captured by the police. McAllister met Daoud in a bar asking people about the Syrian government and Daoud was eager to tell his family’s story. “My wife, Raghda, was taken by them again…because she spoke against Assad,” Daoud said.
After a few months of filming the family, McAllister was captured and taken to prison where he witnessed several brutal killing and caught some on film. “I still have flashbacks about being there…everyday hearing people get beaten to death is something I can never forget,” McAllister said during the panel discussion.
While the title is A Syrian Love Story, the family struggled to stay together; unfortunately, their love couldn’t conquer all. The family moved about 16 times over the course of the film. After fleeing from Tartus, Syria and finally settling in France the couple’s relationship suffered. “She hasn’t said I love you to me in over a year…I don’t know what to do,” said Daoud.
Hasan still had memories of being in prison and even tried to commit suicide. “Being here in France isn’t right, I need to go back and fight for the freedom of my people,” Hasan said. The family eventually got a visa to legally live in France. “Living here my kids now have a future, I have a future, we are now at peace and no longer living in hiding,” Daoud said.
The couple eventually separated, while Daoud and their two children live in France helping Syrian refugees. Hasan left the family behind to help other immigrants on the Turkish border. “I have to continue to fight for my people…not just for me but for my family too so we can all be free,” Hasan said.
Their youngest child, who was three when McAllister first began filming, can no longer speak Arabic. “He doesn’t like to talk about the past so he says he doesn’t remember, but he is losing his Arabic,” Daoud said.
“I will always love Ragdah she is my lover, my life….the revolution tore us apart but I will always love her,” Amar said.
To learn about this film and about Sean McAllister, visit his website seanmcallister.com.