"He who interferes in things that have nothing to do with him will face what he doesn't like to face"
. 13-year-old Fatma giggles as she repeats the teacher's proverb. The camp's resident 'enfant terrible' ignores this stern advice. She is hell bent on stirring up trouble, breaking furniture with footballs and stealing her mum's lipstick. "Is this how I have raised you?!"
comments her exasperated mother, but our protagonist's spirit cannot be tamed. Nor can Maryam's; she graces the stage of her local theatre group and throws herself into soccer practice, despite the concerns of her parents.
Cautionary tales are critical for survival in the rough environment of the Zaatari camp. Feraz sells sweets in the street to support his parents, and Hammoudi must give up his beloved bicycle to buy clothes for his little brother. One mother tells the story of a young girl who braves the cave of a man-eating monster to rescue a captured rooster. Fatma too has an affinity for birds, announcing that a cockerel friend is the only one she can share all her secrets with. What unites these children is the way they use imagination to combat the challenges they face.
Maryam plants trees to remind her of Syria and prays the good Djinn will turn the leaves green. But when she tells the other children in the camp she is returning home, they are stunned. Feraz too sits patiently, awaiting instruction, as televised news footage of the destruction wrought by bombings back at home plays in the background.
These children may find refuge in dreams, but even their stories of magic know limits in the face of the brutal realities of war.
Dutch Competition - IDFA 2016
Standing Up Competition - Cleveland International Film Festival 2017
Human Rights competition - Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival 2017
NEW DOCS competition - Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2017