A Flood in Baath Country
[TUFAN FI BALAD EL-BA'TH]
Directed by Omar Amiralay
Color. 46 min. Arabi...展开c with English subtitles.
In 1970, Omar Amiralay made a short documentary, Film-Essay on the Euphrates Dam, in praise of the ruling Baath party's project to construct an impressive system of dams. Today, after fatal construction flaws have been discovered, his controversial new film, A Flood in Baath Country, explores the metaphorical implications of such weakness. Without commentary or criticism, Amiralay's film exposes Baath party propaganda and its debilitating effects on the people of al-Mashi village, 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of Damascus. The camera moves slowly from students to teachers to government officials, with everyone reciting the exact same praises for the president and slogans glorifying the Baath party. The film is the harshest indictment yet of the regime, portraying the devastating effects of 35 years of rigid Baath party rule on Syrian society.
"There is nothing enigmatic, by contrast, about Omar Amiralay's documentaries. They're as outspoken as can be--and yet they, too, convey their argument through unforgettably strong images." – Stuart Klawans, The Nation
The filmmaker's first film is a short film to the glory of the Euphrates dam, the pride of the ruling Baath party. "I regret this youthful error". 33 years later, he unveils the indoctrination at work in the village classroom.
There is nothing enigmatic, by contrast, about Omar Amiralay's documentaries. They're as outspoken as can be--and yet they, too, convey their argument through unforgettably strong images. Among the most forceful of his films is A Flood in Baath Country (2003), which has the added benefit of encapsulating Amiralay's career for you. In 1970, fresh out of film school and fired with enthusiasm for the Baath regime, he made a short titled Film-Essay on the Euphrates Dam. At the beginning of A Flood in Baath Country, you see footage from this early work: brief views of dam construction, shot in expert imitation of Amiralay's beloved Dziga Vertov. Meanwhile, on the soundtrack, the present-day Amiralay speaks of his distress at having made such a film. Construction was shoddy; dams have fatally collapsed. As for the artificial Lake Assad, beneath whose waters stand inundated villages, it now seems to Amiralay to be the perfect symbol of the Baath regime, which seeks to submerge all life in Syria.