Nezouh review – dreamlike story of life in Damascus during Syria’s civil war

Estimated read time 2 min read

Here is the second feature from Syrian film-maker Soudade Kaadan, set in a Damascus suburb during the most brutal shelling of the civil war, among the remaining traumatised residents wondering whether to stay or leave as refugees heading for the Mediterranean. The resonant title means “displacement” and her images of the city, modified with some magic-realist effects, are very striking.

A middle-aged guy, Motaz (Samer al-Masry) is grumpily asserting his authority in front of his increasingly sceptical family: his wife is Hala (Kinda Alloush) and they are parents to teen daughter Zeina (Hala Zein), who is incidentally conspiring with her mother to suppress the news that she has started her period. She also likes a certain boy who keeps coming around – budding film-maker Amer (Nizar Alani) – and she and her mum are stunned at the news that Motaz might accept a marriage proposal on Zeina’s behalf from a neighbour who is suggesting his son, a fighter in the war. When a bomb blows a massive hole in the roof of their apartment building, it is terrifying but also weirdly liberating; it ventilates their existence and is the source of sunlight – and is the starting point for some dreamy reveries.

Nezouh is a sweet-natured film, and beautifully photographed by Hélène Louvart; it feels as if it has been adapted from a YA graphic novel (though it isn’t). It has real charm but there is a patina or sheen of unreality, with some rather theatrical contrivances which verge on the precious. But there are nice performances, and al-Masry sympathetically suggests Motaz’s tender fragility and loneliness.


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