Resistance is Life offers Western perspective and the reality of war

Fran Partlett, Film Analyst

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There’s something so visceral about a documentary, isn’t there?

With Apo W. Bazidi’s Resistance is Life (shown in the USU Ballroom Sept. 25), I am presented a documentary that offers a reflective space in which I question not only myself, but the society in my backdrop that contributes to such impassive warfare. This is why I use the word ‘visceral;’ handheld footage gives us a ‘lived’ experience, a medium that is not just recording, but interacting with what it is around. It brings us closer and in this we undergo more than just a physical or intellectual reaction; we are hurt by what we see.

Bazidi’s film follows Evlin, an eight year girl from ISIS-occupied Kobanî, residing with her family in a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border. We see pain and destruction through her eyes as victory and hope, understand that war in her mind is an opportunity to fight for those that you love, and come to terms with the idea that an eight year old girl has no fear of such barbarism.

It was hard for me to gradually accept this reality; children in war situations still fully engaged in the joy of living. Bazidi spoke in the Q&A of how seeing conflict in “Western media is very different to the slap in your face you get from actually being there.” It was then that I understood the significance of documentary-making in a way I hadn’t before. It is a loaded gift, one that gives its viewer an opportunity to see what the media hides from them.

Bazidi’s work with editors Jason Rosenfield (ACE) and Yuta Okamura produced a work that gave no attention to ISIS fighters, only credit to the power of the resistance of YPG and YPJ fighters. He was killing his darlings (a term that means ‘removing pieces you love in favour of what supplements the work) to make a film that had a clear vision and statement. This inadvertently created a female-orientated narrative in which we discover that 70 to 80 percent of the victories in the field came from women fighters.

I asked Bazidi to comment upon this comment of the feminist gaze, to which he replied that it was as much a surprise to him as Evlin approaching him so boldly. These women were “showing huge resistance against the ancient mentality of the patriarchy; when their homeland was taken from them, women were being raped and killed all over, they called out for help. But when nobody answered, they chose to stand up for themselves.”

This documentary shows such power and defiance in figures Western media deems fragile, that it moves me to inspiration. Never before have I been allowed to realise I know so little; to see the beauty and strength thriving under destruction is staggeringly bittersweet. As to reinforce why I feel this, a volunteer artist said matter-of-factly: “we are going to win this war with smiling children.” Heartbreaking and astounding.

I realise I have been living under a rock labelled ‘ignorance is bliss.’ But to this I say no more. 10/10.

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