Evgeny Afineevsky’s “Cries from Syria,” a documentary about the country’s ongoing deadly civil war, is filled with extremely graphic imagery, much of which was shot by Syrian protestors, revolutionaries and icons.
It’s a graphic film about an ongoing humanitarian crisis, but it’s something the documentarian feels the world needs to see. After a screening of the film at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series in Los Angeles, Afineevsky said he decided to make the film after realizing how little information the rest of the world had about its origins.
“We need to educate our younger generation. We’ve not been seeing the war, we are far from all those things,” he said in a Q&A.
Afineevsky’s last film, “Winter on Fire,” was about the revolution in the Ukraine in 2013 and 2014. Though he was born in Russia, he is now an American citizen and wanted to highlight the potential danger to the freedoms for which he loves the U.S.
“Witnessing two revolutions in my life, the Ukrainian and this one, I’m starting to worry about the world where I live—the world that is called the United States. I’m an American citizen,” he said. “I guess being able to compare what I had in Russia before, and with the United States, it gave me the opportunity to go learn something, document these stories, and bring them back to you, my audience, so that you can learn something, that you can make a reevaluation of certain things.
“It was a necessity to make [this film so that] we, as humanity, can learn something and can prevent things,” he continued. “In this movie I can see all the parallels to what’s happening in this country, as much as it sounds horrifying—but you know what, there’s a lot of elements that I can see in most of my movies that are happening in this country. That is why I’m cherishing everything that America gave me and that’s why I think it’s a necessity to learn from these movies and reevaluate what we can and preserve what we can.”
The younger generation plays a key role in the film, considering the events that sparked the war in Syria involved teenagers spray-painting graffiti at their school.
“Kids are the essential element of this war. They’re born and instead of to be in their childhood, they’re stepping directly into this war. Their toys are the guns,” Afineevsky said. “It’s their story. It’s about them.”
Afineevsky wanted to tell the stories of these children so younger generations around the world will not take their freedoms for granted.
“If you don’t remind the people what it means in the real world, if you do not remind the people what it means to preserve peace, it will be bad for us. We need to stand and preserve what we have in our hands: freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” he said. “It’s important to educate our younger generation [so] that they can’t take those things for granted.”
Watch clips from the Q&A below:
“Cries from Syria” is available to watch on HBO Go and HBO Now.
The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.