Since 2011, Abounaddara, an anonymous group of Syrian filmmakers, has released a weekly film on the web, spotlighting the lives of individual Syrians in the war. In order to avoid censorship, their short films offer anonymous fly-on-the-wall perspective of the conflict. Since 2013, they have been campaigning for the “Right to the Image”: maintaining the dignified image of the Syrian people instead of depictions of bodies and war shown in the more mainstream media.

Their work has been recognized by the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Abounaddara are the recipients of the second Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. The exhibition Abounaddara, The Right to the Image is presented at The New School, New York, from October 22 through November 11, 2015, launched by a three-day international conference.

Presented by the Global Borders Research Collaborative in MIT Global Studies and Languages, in conjunction with the French Initiatives Endowment Fund, MISTI-Arab World, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, and The Office of the Associate Provost.

More About Abounaddara

Abounaddara aims to empower civil society to independently produce its own image. An artistic project that employs the aesthetics of cinema in a spirit of do-it-yourself and disorientation, Abounaddara is also a political project that plays on anonymity and dis-identification to construct a space of resistance. By employing the framework of collaborative consumption, Abounaddara also strives to overstep the consumer society.

Born in Damascus in 2010, the project takes its name from the first Arabic language satirical revue, founded in Cairo in the nineteenth century (Abounaddara = the man with glasses), as well as from Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s film Man with a Movie Camera. It also refers to Walter Benjamin’s concept of emergency, by working towards an emergency cinema that short-circuits the rules of the culture industry.

Since April 2011, Abounaddara has produced self-funded, weekly short films, made freely available to the public online. These films are anonymous and open-ended. They offer a glimpse of ordinary Syrians without restricting them to political or religious affiliations, while focusing on the details of daily life and evoking horror without ever showing it. The films do not look to prove a point, but rather to defend the rights of the nameless to a dignified image.

Abounaddara’s films are shared by Syrians from all sides, to the extent that even a major pro-regime newspaper has written that they represent civil society in a balanced way. The films are garnering ever-greater international recognition, yet they do not benefit from a viable and sustainable mode of production. They depend exclusively on the voluntary involvement of the filmmakers.

Abounaddara is an anonymous collective of volunteer, self-taught artists whose practice is founded on the principle of emergency and an attitude of defiance towards established powers and the culture industry. They produce films and distribute them as public artistic goods. These films have been presented in major international film festivals, biennials and museums. Granted an award by the New School, these ‘bullet films’ promote the right to the image in Syria and elsewhere.

Abounaddara website

Abounaddara FaceBook page

NPR interview with Charif Kiwan