Film Review -NEZOUH

Film Review -NEZOUH

Nezouh achieves that rare feat of managing to educate and entertain despite its subject matter. It’s a touching and magical coming of age story set against the backdrop of war in Damascus.

14 year old Zeina has to navigate her adolescence in their village in Damascus, it appears that they are the last family left. A missile nearly kills them all and damages their apartment beyond repair. Zeina and her mother want to leave but her father Mutaz refuses to leave and face being refugees.

Nezouh is stunning, deeply affecting, and, emotionally devastating. All too often the news reduces those in war torn parts of the world in the form of statistics and labels them as refugees, displaced. We are often left with images of rubble. However, Soudade Kaadan manages to inject humanity into this world and remind the audience that people caught in warzones had dreams and lives before, they too are proud and have their dignity.

In her introduction to the film, Soudade made clear her reasons for making the film to remind us all that the displaced (which is what Nezouh means in Arabic) have stories and families.  In showing the discussions and reasonings that both of Zeina’s parents go through about whether to leave their shell of a house behind, Soudade brings into sharp focus what so many families must have agonised over. She does so without resorting to melodrama or lecturing the audience, making the film all the more richer.

Films like Nezouh are a very important reminder that diversity and gaze are important both in front and behind the camera. Not a second of precious screentime is wasted giving the audience a lengthy explanation about war, we are plunged into the chaos and it is unsettling and intriguing.

Nezouh could have felt like a relentless film of misery and yet it isn’t. It somehow manages to find humour in the bleakest moments, such as the father trying to cover the bomb shelled walls with sheets, thus giving it a wonderful tone and making it all the more compelling to watch. There are moments of horror some are filtered like when the militia turn up at the door, or when a neighbour tries to buy Zeina for his son and, others though muted are deeply unsettling such as Mutaz returning home with food he took from an abandoned house.

Special mention must go to the cinematographer Hélène Louvart, her work is exquisite. The scenes on the rooftop where Zeina and her neighbour are for a rare moment ordinary teenagers watching the stars and laughing are by far my favourite.

NEZOUH will be released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on 3 May 2024.

  • Venice Film Festival, winner of the Armani Audience Award & Lanterna Magica Award
  • Winner of the Amnesty International Human Rights Award at Rome Med Film Fest
  • Special Mention, Cannes Cinéphiles,
  • in Competition: BFI London Film Festival

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