Yazan Rabee on „Back“/ interview

The director was born in Syria and fled to the Netherlands in 2016 with the single goal of becoming a filmmaker. In 2022, he graduated from film school and released two short films: the fiction Beyond the Sun and the documentary Back.

What was your starting point for “Back”?

I used to have a recurring nightmare since I left Syria in 2014. In the dream, I used to see myself back in Syria, in Aleppo where I was raised. I see myself then running from the intelligence agents for either participating in a demonstration against the Syrian regime or simply because of not carrying my ID and the military book with me. While running, I think about our house in Aleppo as a safe shelter to hide. Whenever I get close to the house I wake up.

In 2021 I was browsing Facebook when I found out that I am not the only one who has this nightmare. I read a post from a friend, telling exactly the same nightmare. After that, I started asking Syrian friends about the nightmare. Almost everyone I asked said that they have/ had this nightmare. Rare were the people who said that they don’t have this nightmare.

I was wondering how a lot of people have the same nightmare when I decided to make an essayistic short documentary about the nightmare. How and when did this nightmare begin?

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

I am happy with the film as a whole because the film feels like a one, long dream, yet with different and various visuals.

However, when I read this question a few scenes jump in front of my eyes. But let me share just one with you.

It’s the beds‘ scene. “And we wake up.’’ Hearing that sentence, with silence, while seeing multiple empty beds, gives the same feeling when we wake up after that very nightmare, to silence. The peaceful silence that we get after the first few seconds when we come back to reality.

The first few seconds are the seconds you need to travel from the nightmare to reality, and it can be hard.

For that sequence, I strongly wanted to film the beds of Syrian people who have/ had the nightmare. The distances between one house and another were long and hard. I did it anyway, because I felt, back then, that this sequence is going to be a special sequence in the film.

What do you like about the short form?

Focussing on one subject, and feeling free to experiment.

In Back, experimenting had an important role in giving the film its shape. Feeling free to hold freely the idea of a scene and then sculpturing that scene with experiment. Finally making all the experimented sculptures one little sculpture.

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