Young filmmaker aims to tell besieged Syrians' story

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
16 PHOTOS
Filmmaker in Syria looks to why people start wars
See Gallery
Filmmaker in Syria looks to why people start wars
Syrian director Humam Husari (wearing pink) directs actors while cameraman Sami al-Shami operates a camera as they film a scene in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Men hold a white cloth over actors as they perform a scene in a film directed by Humam Husari in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Actors are seen on a set during filming of a film directed by Humam Husari in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Actors perform a scene in a film directed by Humam Husari in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Syrian director Humam Husari (wearing pink) directs actors while cameraman Sami al-Shami (wearing white) operates a camera as they film a scene in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Syrian director Humam Husari (wearing pink) and cameraman Sami al-Shami (far right) operate a camera as they film a scene in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Syrian director Humam Husari (center left) and cameraman Sami al-Shami (center right) operate a camera as they film a scene in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
A man looks at the camera during filming a film directed by Humam Husari in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Syrian director Humam Husari (R) and cameraman Sami al-Shami (C) operate a camera as they film a scene in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
A young man films behind-the-scenes of a film directed by Humam Husari in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Director Humam Husari edits his film after finishing the filming phase at his office in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Lighting equipment and a monitor for a film directed by Humam Husari are put against the wall during filming in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Crew of a film directed by Humam Husari (raising his hand) gather on a table after the end of filming in the rebel-held besieged town of Zamalka, in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria October 6, 2016.REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Crew of a film directed by Humam Husari grill meat after the end of filming in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
Director Humam Husari edits his film after finishing the filming at his office in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH "SYRIA FILM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. THE IMAGES SHOULD ONLY BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE STORY - NO STAND-ALONE USES.
HIDE CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION

BEIRUT, Oct 14 (Reuters) - A Syrian filmmaker whose harrowing footage of sarin gas victims in 2013 was seen around the world is using his experience of the attack and conflict to make a drama looking at why people take up arms in a war which began as a peaceful revolution.

Humam Husari's self-financed short film explores the chemical attack near Damascus through the eyes of a rebel fighter who lost his wife and child but was denied time to bury them. Instead, he is called to defend his town from a government offensive. The story is based on real-life events, he said.

"We need to understand how people were pushed into this war and to be part of it," said Husari, 30. "I am talking about a story that I lived with. They are real characters."

SEE ALSO: Stark satellite images reveal the destruction wreaked on Aleppo by intense bombing

U.N. investigators established that sarin gas was used in parts of the rebel-held Ghouta suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus in 2013. The United States accused Syria's government of conducting the attack, which it estimated killed around 1,400 people, but Damascus denied responsibility and blamed rebels.

Making the film was an emotional but necessary experience for Husari and his performers, who were witnesses to and victims of the attack, and not trained actors.

"The most difficult thing was the casting and auditions," said Husari, who took about two months to write, produce and direct the 15-minute film and is currently editing it.

"A 70-year-old man said to me: I want to be part of this movie because I lost 13 of my family ... I want the world to know what we've been through. And all I wanted from him is just to be a dead body," he said.

"I was amazed with how much those people were able to express their tragedy and to cooperate with me on this movie."

Syria's civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 11 million -- about half of Syria's pre-conflict population. It has caused a refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe and drawn in regional and global powers.

Mohamed Demashki, a business student and professional bodybuilder before the war who plays the main character, said he took part in the film because of its message.

"It tries to convey to the world that the people who live here are not just fighters, they are not terrorists. They are people with a life. The war conditions them to become fighters," he said.

When the sarin attack happened, Husari took his camera to the makeshift hospitals that sprang up to cope with thousands of victims and sent the footage to international media.

"I wasn't filming because I am a cameraman, I was filming because this is the only thing I could do for the victims," he said.

"During it, you can't feel anything, you just feel shock ... After, when you just think about what you have witnessed, you rethink how big and real and really tragic this was. It is not easy for me to watch my footage."

U.S. President Barack Obama had said use of chemical weapons would be a red line, but after the 2013 attack, it became clear Washington would not back up his words with military action.

While Syria destroyed its declared stockpile of chemical weapons under international supervision, warring parties continue to accuse each other of attacks involving mustard gas, chlorine and other chemicals.

Husari, who studied film at the Brighton Film School in Britain, now makes a living covering the Syrian conflict for international news organizations, but still hopes to make filmmaking his career.

Speaking to Reuters by phone over a background wail of air raid sirens and the roar of warplanes, Husari said that living the daily reality of war will equip him to tell the story of the conflict when the war ends and films can start to be made.

"Let's just think about how I reacted to those war jets in the sky. It has become something very normal to me, and this is something it is really hard to understand from the outside," he said.

He has acquired the tools to direct actors to accurately respond to events in a conflict setting, he said.

"I feel I have a responsibility in the future to tell this story, these stories, through cinema and drama. That's usually what happens after every war," he said.

With parts of Damascus's Ghouta under opposition control from the beginning of the conflict, a number of areas have come under siege by Syrian government and allied forces.

Making cinema in a place where there is no free passage of food, people and other supplies is tough. Husari made his lighting equipment and camera track himself, but had the good fortune to have access to a good quality camera.

"It is an irony that in a besieged area you can find the best cameras you need," he said.

More on AOL.com:
The war in Afghanistan is 15 years old — here are 29 photos of one of the US's longest wars
US welcomed a record number of Muslim refugees in 2016
A 7-year-old Syrian girl and her mother are posting haunting Tweets about living in Aleppo

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners