‘This is a Story About the Boredom of War’

A film review: Nezouh

(Image: Modern Films)

This film follows the story of a young girl, Zeina and her mother, Hala, who live in Damascus, Syria with their father. Zeina’s sister has left them and probably died on her journey out of the country. At least, her Facebook page has become inactive. They have no information. Their lives become a near vacuum.

Damascus is crumbling: a skeletal city. Rebels and fighters shoot civilians in the street. It is dangerous to leave the house. Electricity is down. Water no longer comes out of Hala’s bathroom taps. Zeina’s father insists that everything is fine; he has a gun which he doesn’t know how to hold. He provides for them and takes pride in doing so.

When an explosion happens, their small apartment on the top floor caves in. Walls fall. Ceilings become holes. Zeina’s father insists they are ok. He nails up sheets, hammers them into the wall. When the sun shines through, the house is beautiful again. Then the wind takes them, rain pours in. 

In her bed at night, Zeina sees a boy uncovering the ceiling sheet, pinned up above her. He shows her a video he shot of gunfire. He tells her the stars are bright. Eventually, climbing up the straggly knotted rope, she comes to see the roof of her building, the city. The boy wrangles a projector, tech left over from ‘the media.’ They watch on mute so as not to wake her parents. 

Zeina and her mother throw rubble into a pool in the sky. It ripples. Zeina casts a fishing line over the edge, there is water.

This is a story about the boredom of war, the humans stranded in it, and the reluctance to leave one’s own home. There is starkness and yet beauty, malice and yet meekness, and there is joy.

When Zeina’s mother finally makes a decision, Zeina joins her. They visit their old school, browsing the dusty upturned desks housing books no longer read, and Zeina’s old pencil case she left behind on her last day. Education is dead. Learning is simply living. And living is not so simple.