WE ARE THE GIANT
Directed by Greg Barker
Produced by John Battsek, Julie Goldman and Greg Barker
Co-Produced by Razan Ghalayini
Line Producer Diane Becker
The general impression is that uprising across the Middle East have been violent failures. This is wrong. Revolutions take years, sometimes decades, to play themselves out and so it is far too early to pass judgment.
What is clear is that, while the nature of the revolutionary experience is in many ways timeless, the tactics and methods employed by today’s revolutionaries are a product of the internet age – and we sought to employ these same tactics and methods to tell authentic stories that reveal a truth closer to what is actually happening inside the revolutions still convulsing the region.
Documentation is imperative. Because the mainstream media coverage is limited by public attention, safety issues for correspondents, and press restrictions imposed by brutal regimes, many citizens of conflict zones have taken it upon themselves to document the mounting violence and daily violations of their most basic rights.
To access these untold stories, WE ARE THE GIANT co-producer Razan Ghalayini, who is of Arab descent and Arabic speaking, developed an extensive network of contacts among activists across the region. She then used this network to secretly travel to locations where director Greg Barker would have stood out and revealed our film’s true purpose. [Barker, for instance, has previously filmed in Bahrain, under close government supervision.] Ghalayini conducted in-person interviews under difficult circumstances, and liaised with activist networks that were collecting some of the most damning footage and then helping activists find ways to smuggle these materials across borders.
We were especially determined to tell the story of the non-violent activists who helped begin the Syrian revolution, in the Damascus suburb of Dariya. This story has never been reported before, because of the extreme danger involved in traveling to Dariya, and yet it debunks a central myth the Syrian regime has propagated with remarkable success: that the uprising was violent from the start.
This key and important section of the film would never have been possible without the unrelenting work of a young Syrian cameraman named Fadi Dabbas, who provided the team with the extraordinary conflict footage in the Syrian portion of the film. Fadi seems to have lived the lives of six men: he has survived and filmed every major attack in Dariya, including the massacre that killed 600 people in just three days. When he contacted the WE ARE THE GIANT team via Internet shortly after the massacre, he had just returned from helping to dig a mass grave. One of his paramount concerns was that the footage he had risked his life to shoot would be used in the film, because he so passionately believed that the world needed to know what was truly happening inside Syria.
Bassel Shehadeh, a young aspiring Syrian filmmaker and non-violent activist, was working with the film’s team in its early stages. He was killed in Homs in May of 2012. His friends have been unable to track down most of the footage he had shot for WE ARE THE GIANT. Shehadeh worked very closely with activist Motaz Murad and Rushdie, the doctor who appears briefly in the film. Losing him only redoubled the filmmaker’s resolve to get footage from inside Syria.
In Bahrain, most of the footage also came from activists inside the country who Ghalayini met during one of her many secret visits to document the story of the AlKhawaja sisters and their father. Also – surprisingly – some of the most damning footage, including close ups of the riot police, were actually filmed by the Bahraini government itself, and released online, perhaps as a warning to those who would challenge its authority. Objective, on-the-ground reporting on Bahrain by foreign journalists is almost impossible, as the regime has imposed notoriously tight restrictions on any visiting foreign correspondent, and those who seek to operate independently, away from the government minders, are routinely deported. Although she was tear-gassed more than once, Ghalayini managed to avoid the regime’s detection during her many visits to Bahrain over the past two years, which enabled WE ARE THE GIANT to capture the activism of two of the film’s central characters, Maryam and Zainab AlKhawaja.