News / Toronto

Syrian film festival hopes to bring stories of the conflict to Toronto

“Hopefully when they see the stats and hear the personal stories, people will want to help more."

Syrian Film Festival organizers Maher Azem, left, and Adam Riggio.

Contributed

Syrian Film Festival organizers Maher Azem, left, and Adam Riggio.

An upcoming Toronto film festival is bringing small stories about the Syrian crisis to the big screen.

Much of the recent discussion around Syria has focused on the sheer scale of the onoging conflict. Eleven million people have been displaced and more than 200,000 killed.

Those are important statistics, but the organizers of the city’s first Syria Film Festival want to tell the stories of everyday Syrians – stories like that of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose drowned body washed ashore on a Turkish beach last week and became a symbol of the tragic conflict.

“We want to use arts and films to portray the struggles of the Syrian people,” said Maher Azem, the festival’s coordinator. “You could say we are carrying all those stories of humanitarian efforts, heroism, sacrifice and creativity overseas across the miles to Toronto.”

The festival will take place from Nov. 13 to 15 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The lineup includes feature films, shorts, cartoons and documentaries from Syrian filmmakers.

Azem, who is of Syrian descent and moved to Toronto more than ten years ago, has volunteered with non-profit organizations providing support to refugees in the region. Given the recent spike in attention towards the crisis, he hopes the film festival inspires more activism from the local and international community.

“Hopefully when they see the stats and hear the personal stories, people will want to help more,” he said, describing the conflict as the biggest catastrophe of the 21st century.

The group has launched a fundraising campaign to help run the festival. To date, it’s raised nearly $2,500.

“The crisis keeps getting worse,” Azem said. “Our community is really sad and hopeless. Syrians have seen worse. They’ve seen families getting destroyed, houses burnt down and people dying.”

More on Metronews.ca