Building New Platforms for Civil Society: the Right to Image in Syrian Abounaddara Collective’s Cinema of Emergency

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Virginia Tech Publishing


In the past five years, the Syrian conflict became “the most socially mediated civil conflict in history” i, bringing into spotlight controversial debates that involve freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the urgency to create a balance between them. In this context, Syrian Abounaddara Collective, a group of self-taught filmmakers based in Damascus, launched the concept of emergency cinema. Starting with April 2011, Abounaddara uploaded every week a film on Facebook, Twitter, and on Vimeo, aiming to represent Syrians in a just and dignified way and offering an alternate narrative to those of Assad’s regime and (inter)national media. The project is very accessible since the Collective is a promoter of the power of “smaller screens” like computers and smartphones, with all films being subtitled from the original Arabic to French and English. Their works combines visual culture and film with philosophy, history, science, sociology etc. inviting critics to provide in-depth analyses of cultural phenomena linked to visuality. The films are supposed to make the viewer look at reality differently, to empathize, and demand for justice; however, the message is intended to be open to interpretation, not merely reduced to the clash between good and evil. The article explores the interdisciplinary features of emergency cinema, especially its juridical dimension and the emphasis on one person’s right to image, that recommend it as an updated version of social cinema. By concisely analyzing several films created by Abounaddara Collective and by relying on information made available by interviews, I aim to offer a fresh perspective on the role of cinema in today’s geopolitical context and open a dialogue on how innovative artistic and media forms can challenge the dominant representations of politics and events.




Popan, E.R., 2016. Building New Platforms for Civil Society: the Right to Image in Syrian Abounaddara Collective’s Cinema of Emergency. Spectra, 5(2). DOI: