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Amer, 45, met Raghda, 40, in a Syrian prison cell 15 years ago. Over a number of months they communicated through a tiny hole they had secretly made in the wall. They fell in love and, following their release, married and started a family together.
This film tells the poignant story of their family torn apart by the tyrannical Assad dictatorship. Filming began in Syria in 2009, prior to the wave of revolutions and ongoing changes in the Middle East. At the time, Raghda was a political prisoner and Amer was caring for their young children alone. McAllister filmed in the thriving heart of the Yarmouk Camp in Damascus – now an infamous news story as the Assad regime blocked all aid and food to its inhabitants.
This intimate family portrait probes to understand why people are literally dying for change in the Arab world. As Raghda is released from prison, filmmaker Sean McAllister himself is arrested for filming and the political pressure around all activists intensifies. The family flee to Lebanon, and then to France where they are given political asylum in the sleepy town of Albi, where they now watch the revolution from afar and wait for the fall of Assad.
However, in exile Raghda’s mental heath suffers. We see their new life in France develop, but the war is now between them. In finding the freedom they fought so hard for, their relationship is beginning to fall apart.
A Syrian Love Story won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sheffield International Documentary Festival.
Directed by: Sean McAllister