Documentary sheds new light on war zone

Behind every war, conflict or political rivalry there are stories of human suffering. The most touching of all is how children suffer under these misfortunes. This is precisely the subject of Mai Masri’s new documentary, Frontiers of Dreams and Fears.
Masri was in Montreal on September 8 for the North American premiere of the film. It was followed by an open discussion held in the Hall building downtown.
In Frontiers of Dreams and Fears, Masri went back and forth between two refugee camps: Shatila in Beirut and Dheishah in the West Bank following the lives of the children who reside there. She focused on two in particular; Mona and Manar who became friends by writing letters to each other.
Filming in countries at war is no easy task and more than once in her career, Masri has found herself in danger.
“In the past, I have smuggled in film,” explained Masri. “I have also found myself constantly hiding during the filming of some documentaries.”
Masri talked about how she was welcomed into the homes of families filmed in her documentaries but it took some time. “The locals were suspicious of the media at first but they have become aware of the importance of the image.”
This documentary is a touching look at the lives these children lead.
At the beginning, it resembles a run of the mill documentary, simply looking for pathos from the audience. As it progresses, it looks less like a Sally Struthers late night infomercial but instead there are strong images representing togetherness.
The children writing to each other finally meet at the border in South Lebanon and Masri shows them holding hands and singing.
This film screening was also a fundraiser as all the profits went towards educational scholarships for the children who were instrumental in the making of the documentary.
“I use the children’s words in my films because they are simple and powerful,” said Masri. “I never work with a predecided script and I let my ideas develop as I work.”
Mai Masri’s documentaries have been on television in countries around the world and they have won several awards.
In North America, some films have been on public television stations such as PBS and she hopes to have Frontiers of Dreams and Fears aired as well.
Masri’s new feature-length film, In the Shadows of the City, tells the story of a boy growing up in a country at war. She also hopes it will be aired on television sometime in the future.
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