Ahmad, a traumatised young Syrian boy, who is the star of Soudade Kaadan’s debut documentary feature, Obscure. Photo by Talal Khoury
Ahmad, a traumatised young Syrian boy, who is the star of Soudade Kaadan’s debut documentary feature, Obscure. Photo by Talal Khoury

‘I wanted to pass an emotional experience to the spectator’, says Soudade Kaadan about her film Obscure



A 6-year-old Syrian boy called Ahmad is the focus of Soudade Kaadan's debut feature film, Obscure. The film will have its UK premiere at the Shubbak (which means window in Arabic) Festival in London, which starts on Saturday.

He lives in a Lebanese refugee camp and is so traumatised by his exile and sense of loss that he can barely speak. It takes hours of coaxing by his mother to wake him up each morning, and throughout the film he denies any knowledge of where he is from.

“Do I want to make a film about a kid who doesn’t speak at all?” – Kaadan says she asked herself this question during the early days of filming.

The filmmaker was born in France, but moved to Damascus at the age of 8, and lived there until she was driven out by the war in 2012. She felt unable to be creative for years when she began her film project, desperate to express her feelings about the destruction of Syria but feeling incapable of doing so.

“The situation was so cruel, I couldn’t make films any more,” she says. “I didn’t want to make a piece of news [reporting] or political analysis. There’s so much information about Syria out there and no one cares.”

Meeting Ahmad and seeing the “look in his eyes that you couldn’t forget” made her realise that this silence could be at the heart of her film.

Rather than trying to find a coherent shape to give her impressions of the conflict, she could admit the impossibility of doing so.

“I wanted to pass an emotional experience to the spectator – for the spectator to have more questions at the end of the film than answers,” she says. “What can we do and how can we help these kids?”

Ahmad is not the only person in the documentary. There is also a more talkative Syrian girl, Batul, and a journalist who watches on a laptop images from the massacre in which his father died.

“He was talking about being numb,” says Kaadan. “He says: ‘I don’t know, maybe I’m used to it – I don’t feel anything’.”

As the film’s title suggests, it was the theme of obscurity that originally inspired Kaadan’s project. But as she researched, shot and edited the film over a five-year period, she realised that the work is “actually about trauma. We weren’t familiar with this concept in Syria before the war. Now, most of my generation has been through trauma”.

She experimented with communicating this trauma through cinematic language, creating fragments of scenes, introducing repetition and posing questions without answers.

Sometimes the audio or visual track will fade out, replaced by field recordings, as though memories are penetrating the experience of reality.

Obscure has already been screened in Denmark and Switzerland. As it continues its tour of film festivals, Kaadan is already hard at work on her next project, a fictional drama called Daraa Is My Shadow, which she hopes to release next year. It is about a woman looking for gas for fuel during a cold Syrian winter, and realising that the people around her have lost their shadows. It is, then, another exploration of the experience of Syrians from an oblique angle – of a trauma, she says, that is not individual but collective.

“You see a whole generation change with one experience. It will never be the same,” she says. “When the war finishes and we come back, how will we survive after this shock?”

That is not to say that healing is impossible. In Obscure, we see glimmers of that process as a social worker painstakingly coaxes Ahmad into playing with a xylophone.

Kaadan says it is possible to notice a change in Ahmad “from the beginning, where he’s absent, to the end, where he’s saying: ‘I want to stay here’. You can see it in the eyes”.

Obscure will screen on July 9 as part of Shubbak Festival, London’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture, which runs from Saturday until July 16

artslife@thenational.ae

Law 41.9.4 of men’s T20I playing conditions

The fielding side shall be ready to start each over within 60 seconds of the previous over being completed.
An electronic clock will be displayed at the ground that counts down seconds from 60 to zero.
The clock is not required or, if already started, can be cancelled if:
• A new batter comes to the wicket between overs.
• An official drinks interval has been called.
• The umpires have approved the on field treatment of an injury to a batter or fielder.
• The time lost is for any circumstances beyond the control of the fielding side.
• The third umpire starts the clock either when the ball has become dead at the end of the previous over, or a review has been completed.
• The team gets two warnings if they are not ready to start overs after the clock reaches zero.
• On the third and any subsequent occasion in an innings, the bowler’s end umpire awards five runs.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Electric scooters: some rules to remember
  • Riders must be 14-years-old or over
  • Wear a protective helmet
  • Park the electric scooter in designated parking lots (if any)
  • Do not leave electric scooter in locations that obstruct traffic or pedestrians
  • Solo riders only, no passengers allowed
  • Do not drive outside designated lanes
Harry & Meghan

Director: Liz Garbus

Stars: Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Rating: 3/5

All The Light We Cannot See

Creator: Steven Knight

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Laurie, Aria Mia Loberti

Rating: 1/5 

Meg 2: The Trench

Director: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Cliff Curtis, Melissanthi Mahut and Shuya Sophia Cai
Rating: 2/5

SPECS

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 750hp at 7,500rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 5,500rpm
Transmission: 7 Speed dual-clutch auto
Top speed: 332kph
Fuel consumption: 12.2L/100km
On sale: Year end
Price: From Dh1,430,000 (coupe); From Dh1,566,000 (Spider)

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

The low down

Producers: Uniglobe Entertainment & Vision Films

Director: Namrata Singh Gujral

Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Nargis Fakhri, Bo Derek, Candy Clark

Rating: 2/5