Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be a freedom fighter in a disintegrating city under siege?
In this country that sounds like the marketing promo for a video game. In the Syrian city of Homs, however, it is the reality of some extremely brave – and some would say foolhardy – young men.
Coming to the Tyneside Cinema for one showing only is a remarkable film called Return to Homs, which won the world cinema grand jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in America.
According to Simon Alcock, of distribution company Journeyman Pictures, it is “an incredibly important film” and this is “an opportunity for the people of Newcastle (and the North East, we would add) to see beyond the moderated snapshots broadcast by mainstream media”.
Directed by Syrian film-maker Talal Derki, it is billed as “a look behind the barricades of the besieged city of Homs where, for 19-year-old Basset and his ragtag group of comrades, the audacious hope of revolution is crumbling like the buildings around them”.
According to the director, the film is “about the Syrian citizen who challenged everything and everyone to demand freedom. It’s a movie about war and the pressure of being in a battlefield”.
It is, unlike a video game, starkly and frighteningly real.
“When I got to Homs and met Abdul Basset al-Saroot, I was inspired immediately,” reported Derki.
“I knew it – he was the personality that I had been looking for, a courageous, 19-year-old man full of character and charisma. He could bring the people closer to him in a second and everyone loved him and appreciated his energy.” Basset was a talented young goalkeeper in a world where more important things than football were on the agenda. As peaceful protests turned into the siege of Homs, with Syrian Army forces closing in, Basset starting carrying weapons to avenge and protect those being shot at and bombed. The film follows Basset and his group as they scuttle and fight and eventually manage to dig a tunnel and escape.
“Death left its mark in every one of us,” said Derki.
“We all changed because of the increasing violence, the loss of people close to us, the injustice, the fragmentation.
“However, Abdul Basset was strong and very solid.
“He was, and still is, persistent.”
And now there is this film to tell his story and the stories of those close to him, not all of whom survived.
Return to Homs is being screened on July 1 at 6pm and Talal Derki will be present to answer questions afterwards.
Tickets can be bought from the Tynside Cinema box office on 0845 2179909 or online at www.tynesidecinema.co.uk