Art And Culture

Syrian Film on What Refugees Took Before They Fled

Syrian Film on What Refugees Took Before They FledSyrian Film on What Refugees Took Before They Fled

Syrian filmmaker Marcelle Aleid has asked exiles from her country to tell her about the unique object they took – or would have liked to have taken –as they fled their war-torn country.

It’s a question that is loaded with emotion for people fleeing their homes in the worst possible circumstances: “What one object would you take with you?”

Aleid, who has been living in Toronto since 2014, has been asking her compatriots that question, compiling video responses on Facebook page “My One Thing”, for a film that speaks of “hope, love and memory”.

“These souvenirs are not just sentimental mementos, they are symbols of hope and tangible connections to the homes they left behind,” she said. Aleid’s object is an old hourglass.

“One day, I looked at it and wondered what other refugees had taken with them,” she told “What object would find a place in their new lives to remind them of who they really are?”

Her project, launched on Facebook, was an instant success, and within days of its launch, dozens of Syrians had submitted videos made on their smartphones, or met with Aleid to film their stories.

 Emotion and Pragmatism

Anas, who also fled Syria for a new life in Canada, said he had taken a blanket with him.

“I got it as a gift from my mum, it is very valuable to me,” he says. “I feel very comfortable when I put it on, I feel her breathe. I remember everything, my home, my bed, my books.”

Aleid says she did not set out to make a purely sentimental film.

Some stories are said with a smile: “I would take my backgammon set.”

Others are purely practical. Basil, a doctor from Aleppo, said he thought of “my passports, my certificates. There are objects you feel more connected with, but you feel it isn’t the appropriate time to bring them.”

To give the film context, she also interviewed non-Syrians about what they would take with them if they were forced to flee.

Mark, a Canadian, would take “my daughters” while Toronto Mayor John Tory said he would take “family photographs”.

All together, the filmed statements remind us that wherever we are from and whatever our background, all people share the same sources of happiness and reminisce in the same way.

Syria has been the scene of a foreign-backed insurgency since March 2011, which has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, according to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research in February this year.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country and found refuge mostly in Europe.