'A Requiem for Syrian Refugees': Film Review

A Requiem for Syrian Refugees - H 2014
Courtesy of Richard Wolf

A Requiem for Syrian Refugees - H 2014

This deeply moving and visually arresting doc is urgently timely

Richard Wolf's documentary examines the plight of Syrians living in a North Iraq refugee camp

Documentary filmmaker Richard Wolf deserves points for courage as well as artistic achievement. For his latest effort, the director of Behind the Veil ventured on his own into Northern Iraq, without any affiliation or security, to investigate the conditions at the Syrian refugee camp Kawergosk, home to some 12,000 of those displaced by the ongoing civil strife and dangerously close to ISL-controlled territory. The result of his efforts is the heartbreaking documentary A Requiem for Syrian Refugees, which allows many of the camp's hopefully temporary inhabitants to lay bare their hopes and frustrations. The film is currently receiving its premiere theatrical engagement at NYC's Quad Cinema.

Utilizing several of the camp's younger residents as a de facto film crew and using the camp's falafel restaurant as his production office, Wolf elicited interviews with residents young and old, hopeful and despairing, resigned and angry, who deliver such messages to the camera as "Indifference kills." Many of them formerly members of the middle-class, they're now forced to live five to ten in tents, relying on UNICEF supplies for food while coping with the inevitable bureaucracy and corruption endemic to such chaotic enterprises.

Their misery is palpable--from the mother of eight children who says that she's not capable of taking care of them herself since her husband is working in Kurdistan to the teenage girl who despairs at not being able to continue her education to the parents of a severely disabled young boy. A haunting reminder of their former lives is provided in the form of home movies communally watched on cell phones.

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Intertitles provide an array of daunting statistics, and the proceedings are scored to the sorrowful strains of Gabriel Faure's "Requiem in D-Minor."

Despite the bleakness on display, the film nonetheless has a gorgeous visual quality, thanks to the stark black-and-white cinematography that recalls the Depression-era photographs of Dorothea Lange.  And it concludes on a positive note, with dozens of the refugees participating in a celebratory dance that indicates that their spirits are not entirely diminished.

Director/screenwriter/producer/director of photography/editor: Richard Wolf
Composer: William Daghlian

No rating, 71 min.