'Take Me From Here. I Will Die Here.'
May 02, 2018
In 2013, Laura Wadha, who is half-Syrian and half-Scottish, enrolled in film school in the UK. Her grandfather offered some resonant parting words: use filmmaking to help people. “I immediately thought of my family in Syria,” Wadha told The Atlantic.
Thus began the four-year process of making Flight, a heartrending short film that follows Wadha’s aunt, Eman, and two young cousins, Mera and Maria. “I’m waiting for them to kill us,” Eman says at the beginning of the film. “If I want to go now, I have to go to Athens by sea. There’s a lot of people killed, but this is the only way. So I have to do it.”
Told largely through Skype, VHS tapes, and iPhone footage, the documentary chronicles the family’s dangerous escape by boat from the war-torn country. They arrive safely, albeit dejected, in Greece.
When we meet the girls again, they can speak Swedish. “I am so happy that I am in Sweden, and I don’t care if anyone says, ‘You are from Syria,’” says Mera. “Even if they say Syrians are dirty…. I know what I am and I don’t care. I just know I finally made it.”
But the relief of sanctuary fades as the girls struggle to find their place in the new country. At night, they dream of war. At school, they are outsiders. “I don’t like it when people ask me about Syria,” says Maria. “When I talk about it, I feel like I want to cry. Sometimes I say, ‘Imagine this happened to you. Would you like it if people asked you about it?’”
Some months later, Maria will say, “I don’t want to be Arabic anymore.”
In mourning the death of a nation—of a heritage, of a home—through the eyes of young children, Wadha’s film is a humanizing antidote to the often anonymous coverage of the Syrian civil war. “I realized that it was almost impossible to relate to the Syrian people based on what we were seeing in the news,” Wadha said. “The Syria I know is completely unrecognizable in the media—the beautiful streets and ancient monuments, the history and culture. With Flight, I hope the audience will catch a glimpse of the Syria that I knew.”
Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.