Ragda Alazizi was born in 1984 in Damascus. she worked as a freelance journalist in Syria. In 2011. During the Arab Spring, Ragda Alizizi was active in the protests against the Syrian regime. At this time, she collected stories about women engaging in the fight against the Al-Assad regime, and incorporated them later into her film „LAMS” , In 2013 she had to flee from Syria and came to Berlin, where she studied Film at the University of Arts UdK Berlin.
You have been working as a freelance journalist in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt recording events such as the Arab Spring. How was the experience?
The experience in Syria and Egypt was not easy at that time, because I was focusing more on writing news reports in a narrative manner and on the simple stories of people who dreamed of a real Arab Spring, social justice, and freedom. I could see their dreams fading and evaporating like water. The Syrians showed hatred and fear of women and tried to kill the revolution by raping her and putting pressure on society through such blackmails. As for Egypt, I still remember how I was walking in Tahrir Square, and I was shocked that the Muslim Brotherhood had taken over the rule of the most important and powerful Arab country. This was a real loss and failure of the dream of the Arab Spring.
How has the change of life been going from Syria to Germany? You have studied cinematographic art in Damascus and Berlin. What differences in the type of teaching have you found? Do you think the vision of cinema in Germany is very Eurocentric?
In Syria, I never thought about studying cinema. When the revolution began and Assad’s gangs began killing children in the street and the number of massacres increased, I could no longer write press reports and prison stories. Words cannot describe what really happens in wars. There is no word to describe the smell of flowers that turns into the smell of blood when a massacre occurs nearby. The decision to study cinema was as if it was a calling from my soul. I came to Germany and filmed my first film, Touch. I knew exactly how I wanted to direct the film. Even though I had no experience in filming. What filmed the film was my soul, not my mind. I was very fortunate to study cinema at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin. The university’s orientation was a free one that did not restrict the student to a specific artistic form or orientation. Teaching is not based on right and wrong. Unfortunately, Germany is not considered a country rich in cinematic culture, and we cannot say that there is German cinema. Bureaucracy stifles filmmakers here. The cinema here is a bad imitation of cheap American cinema.
Film editing is vitally important in the meaning of your film. How was the working process with Dietmar Kraus and what instructions did you give him? Did you have any film references?
I didn’t have a lot of film references, I only saw Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Dietmer Krauss is a creative editor and has more experience in cinema than me. I met him and told him the story of the film and the motivation that made me shoot the film. I sent him the materials. He liked the film and decided to work with me. I did not give him many instructions. I wanted him to give me a new, neutral artistic vision. Working with a non-Arab and non-Syrian team is a double-edged sword. Sometimes I have to explain many things and details in the story because the Germans do not have much contact with the Arab world and its culture. Sometimes, because they did not suffer from wars and displacement, they support my work with neutral opinions that support the work and make it more intelligent.
The film has a very personal and emotional plot talking about the women imprisoned in the dark dungeons of Assad’s Saydnaya prison in Syria. How was working with Alina Amer and Clara Sonntag?
I filmed the film in an unconventional way. There was a filming location that looked like a prison and a filming team like in any location. It was a bit strange for the actresses, and I had to explain a lot of details to them so that they could understand the purpose of the work process in this different way. There were not a lot of emotions while filming compared to my second film,” Inanna”. Since filming was without a script, I recorded the script with another actress.
You were imprisoned in a Syrian prison yourself with little hope of being able to get out. How was the filming of these sequences inside a prison?
I did not film my film in any prison, but rather in a private studio in Berlin.
Why did you choose black and white scientography for the film? The texture and lighting of Jan Ernsting’s cinematography regulates the emotionality of the film. What instructions did you give him?
I was lucky to work with Yan. Because he quickly understood my intention and goal for every photo I wanted to take in the film. I chose black and white because in reality the prison room was painted black and there was darkness and a little light was coming in, but there were no colors of things in the cell in order to break this duality of colors.
The songs of Majnun Laila performed by Zainab and Yabay composed by Dhafer Youssef give color to the film. Why did you choose them and what effect were you looking for in the viewer?
The song “Majnun Laila” is one of the most important pre-Islamic Arabic Sufi poems. It expresses a deep and great state of love and loss of a lover. The lyrics of the poem fit the story of the film, so I chose them. As for Dhafer Youssef’s song, which includes only one sentence, “Pray your prayers,” I chose to put it in the film at the moment when Yasmine prostrates and kisses Laila’s forehead. The purpose of this scene is to sanctify and glorify the moment of love. The state of love in Yasmine’s prayer is not prostration as is customary in Muslim prayer, but rather prostration to kiss her beloved Laila.
What film projects do you have for the future?
I am now working on filming a long documentary film that talks about the origins of war and children’s subconscious understanding of war. The way it is interpreted and translated in reality into other wars continues indefinitely. The film’s goal and message is the return of humanity to unity with existence, with the light of love, and with God and Satan, who are the first source of creation.