Ossama Mohammed

[Juror’s Statement]

Beauty and justice: each of these two is a password to the other. Both together are the pleasure. I was born into a poor family: an elementary school teacher father, a courageous, sarcastic mother and nine brothers and sisters. We all lived on meditation, questions and love. With no radio or television in the house, we used to “watch” our imagination. We saw the magical music of the Big Bang, the link of beauty to justice in my mother’s beautiful songs. That was our wealth and pleasure. Cinema is the pleasure of sharing existence, groping the thrill of being, verifying that you are a human. Feeling the pleasure of being a human. It is the pleasure of verifying your freedom and the pleasure of freedom, adventure, and infidelity towards God the dictator. It is the thrill of this amazing pleasure of mocking him while you are between his jaws. The pleasure of self-mockery and confession. The pleasure of the illusion of inhaling the elixir of survival. Cinema is the womb of times, the tones of details in the universe, and the smell of the total in the partial. The image is stronger and deeper than its creator. Images look similar to senses. Senses are the flame of images, and imagination. Sharing existence is to declare and share your imagination. Cinema alternates power with the gods. The lenses of senses create its cinematic truth, questioning the cinema and the truth, implanting a new time within time and changing the linear time that ends with the end.

What do we call life today if Zaki Cordello, the master of Syrian shadow theater was tortured and killed yesterday? Cinema beauty and justice is to save the story of the victims and prevent the future from falling into a wild and brutal Alzheimer’s in the cinema of the hyena: the hyena that quotes laughter from the cannibals, who still dominate Syria and the world.

Ossama Mohammed

Born in Lattakia, Syria in 1954, he graduated from the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in 1979. His graduation film Step by Step (1978) was his first short documentary. His first fiction feature, Stars in Broad Daylight (1988), deemed by many to be the most scathing critique of Syrian society trapped in the iron grip of the Ba’ath regime. Although the film has never been allowed a public screening in Syria, it was selected at the Cannes Film Festival’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs and earned the filmmaker great critical praise. His second feature Sacrifices (2002), complex and visually stunning, the film has confirmed its maker as one of the Soviet film school’s graduates most individual and masterful filmmakers. After forced exile to Paris in 2011, he began a new cinematic adventure. Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (Award of Excellence at YIDFF 2015), is co-directed by Wiam Simav Bedirxan. He has served as a tutor and speaker at many festivals and academies, including Cannes, Berlin, MOMA, and DOX BOX. Received the Prince Claus Award in 2015 for his personal, humanitarian, and artistic work.

Step by Step

SYRIA / 1978 / Arabic / B&W / Digital File (Original: 35mm) / 22 min

Director: Ossama Mohammed
Photography: Hanna Ward
Music: Abdullatif Abdulhamid
Source: Ossama Mohammed

Each day children trudge the muddied village paths to go to school, but as this film makes painfully clear, their only real escape from crushing poverty is to join the army. A frightening, captivating and insightful portrait of how the Baath regime transformed generations of peasants into citizen-soldiers and sent the poor in droves to provincial cities as migrant laborers.


SYRIA, FRANCE / 2002 / Arabic / Color / Digital File (Original: 35mm) / 113 min

Director, Script: Ossama Mohammed
Photography: Elso Roque
Editing: Martine Barraqué
Cast: Fares Al-Helou, Amal Omran, Hala Omran, Caresse Bashar, Meerna Ghannam
Producers: Muhammad al-Ahmad, Xavier Carniaux, Pierre Chevalier
Production Companies: National Film Organization (Syria), AMIP, Arte France
Source: Ossama Mohammed

The grandfather of a large family passes away before he can give his name to any of his three grandchildren, each born to different parents, as the shackles of tradition come down upon them. An allegorical film that, while whimsical and captivating, also exposes the justifications given to excuse the violence and authority of a patriarchal system that endures through religious language and rites.