As awareness of Syria’s disappeared grows internationally, Noura and Machi search for answers about their loved ones Bassel Safadi and Paolo Dall’Oglio. Across countries and over years, faced with an overwhelming absence of information, hope is the only thing they can hold on to.
Ayouni shows that love can survive in the most challenging of circumstances.
Ayouni is a poetic take on a contemporary issue.
At a time when the dictatorship in Syria is still in power and its position is being normalized, it feels crucial to respond to the crimes that have been committed in its name, and in the wake of it’s destruction across the country. Since 2011, government forces, and other armed groups, have forcibly disappeared at least 100,000 people making them invisible, absent, and silenced.
The loved ones of the disappeared still face the difficult tasks of finding answers. In this context, it is essential to build and preserve a portfolio of war crimes that can be used for accountability and for eventual justice. Ayouni is a small contribution to this effort, bringing intimate stories and realities in focus. Yet it is a film that also speaks to a global issue: ‘forcible disappearance’ is a recent historical and contemporary strategy used to spread fear by targeting human rights defenders, relatives of those already disappeared, key witnesses and lawyers. It is used as a silent weapon of war in many countries in the world: from Mexico to Syria, Bangladesh to Laos, and from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Spain. This film will be particularly resonant in contexts where detention and forcible disappearance are regularly perpetrated against civilians.
The majority of those targeted in Syria are civil society activists and those who spoke out against oppression. Ayouni gives audiences a space for reflecting on current war crimes, and the difficulty for language to truly capture and express the complex emotions that forced disappearance unravels. Ayouni renders visible what has been made absent through the personal and intimate stories of lovers Bassel and Noura, and siblings Paolo and Machi.
During the films development the team have worked closely with the individuals involved, and organisations such as Families for Freedom. This film was made with support from Sanad, Doha Film Institute, Amnesty International, International Media Support & BFI through the Vision Award to Hakawati.
The silencing continues yet the voices of those forcibly disappeared are being heard loud and clear.