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Insyriated - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE plight of everyday Syrian families is placed under the microscope in gruelling fashion in Belgian filmmaker Philippe Van Leeuw’s gripping Insyriated – a tense, sometimes unflinching drama.

Described by its director as ‘a film about war’ as opposed to a war film, this very much examines the effect of living in a war zone upon the citizens unable or unwilling to flee it.

The story focuses on two families who are barricaded inside an apartment in Damascus and, more pertinently, two women: matriarch Oum Yazan (Hiam Abbass) and young mother Halima (Diamand Bou Abboud).

Relationships are already strained when the camera first falls upon them, doubtless exacerbated by the near-constant threats posed by sniper’s bullets, skirmishes between opposing forces, bombs and potential home invaders.

Things start to take a turn for the worse when Halima’s husband is forced to brave the outside world in a bid to formulate an escape plan for his wife and newborn child. But they become even worse when the home is finally penetrated and Halima finds herself stranded with two men in the living room of the house while the remainder of the ‘family’ hide in the kitchen.

What ensues is a harrowing ordeal for Halima, and a life-altering one for everyone involved.

Van Leeuw thankfully keeps much of the violence and the atrocities off-camera but viewers are left in no doubt as to what is going on, mostly because it unfolds via the close-up looks of horror on the victim. As such, Insyriated is an uncomfortable watch – and one made all the more horrific by the knowledge that these kinds of things do happen (and probably on a daily basis).

Bou Abboud is particularly affecting throughout, given that she must bear the brunt of the day’s worst events. She combines fear with determination and resolve. But Abbass is terrific, too, wearing the beleaguered look of a woman who must regularly make tough choices on behalf of a disapproving family. The scenes between these two women are particularly memorable.

On the negative side, Van Leeuw’s screenplay can sometimes seem as though it is piling on the misery and the plot contrivances by allowing so much to happen in such a short period of time. And not every decision made by its central character hold up to too much scrutiny.

But Insyriated is also notable for its decision to film in Lebanon and to use mostly real Syrian refugees who had never acted before in supporting roles, thereby heightening the overall authenticity of the piece.

The result is a thoughtful, eye-opening experience that puts an all-too human face on a crisis that continues to make headlines.

In Arabic, with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 82mins
UK Release Date: September 8, 2017