Matthew VanDyke has unusual but highly pertinent qualifications to document the
Syrian revolution. The self-described
freedom fighter escaped from Gaddafi’s Abu Salim prison, where he was held in solitary
during the Libyan civil war. Like a
Twenty-First Century throwback to partisan press corps that covered the Spanish
Civil War, VanDyke both documents and advocates on behalf of the everyday Syrians
rebelling against Assad’s dictatorship in his short documentary, Not Anymore: a Story of Revolution (trailer here), which screens during
the 2013 AFI Docs presented by Audi (as it is now officially, if awkwardly
fixer is also his producer and subject.
Nour Kelze sounds like she was once the sort of modern, educated woman
so desperately needed in the Middle East.
A former school teacher, she explains she once wore fashionable clothes
and high heels, but “not anymore.” With
the onset of the Ba’ath regime’s crackdown, she became a war photographer,
adopting the profession’s Kevlar helmet and vest.
guides viewers through the chaos that once was the thriving city of
Aleppo. Although still populated, the
neighborhoods strafed by Assad’s forces now look like a ghost town. Free Syrian Army commander “Mowya” wryly observes
Assad certainly made good on his promise to clear out the panhandlers from the
desolate, bombed out streets.
Not Anymore clocks-in just under
fifteen minutes, VanDyke captured more action in that time-frame than he
probably would have liked. Unlike some
documentary filmmakers, he is clearly willing to put himself on the front line,
just like his producer. That gives the doc
real immediacy and authenticity.
Throughout the film, VanDyke’s interview subjects
pointedly ask why America has not forcefully interceded on their behalf. He is understandably diplomatic in his
responses, but the hard truth is for the last four years or so, American foreign
policy has been more interested in cultivating relations with regimes like
Assad’s than changing them. Perhaps his
film will open some eyes. Granted, it
has a decided point of view, but it still is a powerful example of cinematic
journalism. Recommended for all viewers
concerned about conditions in Syria, Not
Anymore screens tomorrow afternoon (6/20) and Sunday morning (6/23) as part
of the Truth Be Told programming
block at this year’s AFI Docs presented by Audi.
Labels: AFI Docs '13, Documentary, Matthew VanDyke, Short Films, Syria