ACT Human Rights Film Festival: ‘A Memory in Khaki’ shows a different side of the Syrian conflict

Ty Davis

Collegian Reviews (Illustration by Caleb Carpenter | Collegian)

You may not know the full the story of the Syrian civil war, but ACT Human Right’s Flim Festival’s “A Memory in Khaki” will fill you in. 

“We want to tell the history and the background story of what’s going in Syria right now,” Louai Haffar, the film’s producer, said. “Most if not all of the films produced about Syria in recent years talk about the current situation; we decided to go back, to tell the history of Syria, what was the reason behind the eruption of the revolution in Syria.”

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The history Haffar is referring to is a series of uprisings against former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and his oppressive regime. Eventually culminating in a three-week siege in 1982 that destroyed the city Hama and killed around 20,000 Syrians.

Haffar and the film’s director Alfoz Tanjor wanted to show how these events have culminated in the unrest we see currently. But instead of focusing on the large-scale politics, or the historical figures, the two wanted to take a more grounded approach.

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Rams for Refugee 

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“Memory in Khaki” focuses on the lives of five Syrians, including the film’s director, who were displaced either through exile or asylum. The film aims to show how the countries history has led to the current civil war. As such, the film focuses on people recounting their experiences under al-Hassad’s reign during the 80s and people who left in relation to the current conflict. A staple of Hassa’ds regime was its use of the color khaki for everything from military to school uniforms. To many Syrians, khaki has become a signifier for oppression; many interviewees describe their memories as being defined by the color.

After the screening, there was a Q&A session with the film’s producer Haffar, in which he opened up about his own experiences with the Hassad regime, his history with the Tanjor and the difficulties he faced with making the film.

Tanjor has a super minimalist style that helps to create a clam atmosphere. There is almost no camera movement in the entire film, instead focusing on jump cuts, so smooth you don’t even notice them. This minimalist style allows Tanjor to focus all his time on angle, composition and subject matter. Tanjor has an eye for beautiful compositions and symbolism that gives each frame so much life. This film truly demonstrates how each frame can be a painting.

The film tells an emotional story of identity, loss and oppression that humanizes the conflict more than any coverage here in the states. If you can, see this film.

Ty Davis can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @tydavisACW