The Road to Damascus

APR 26, 2013 | 7:00 PM TO 9:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


1218: Segal Theatre


April 26, 2013: 7:00 PM-9:00 PM







"The Road to Damascus: A Screening and Discussion with Activist Filmmaker and Director Nabil Maleh"

Join the “father of Syrian Cinema,” artist-activist Nabil Maleh for a screening and discussion of his documentary The Road to Damascus. This filmic journey across Syria uncannily presages the current uprising, visiting areas of hardship and depravation that have since erupted in groundswells of anti-regime protest. Maleh drives past Syria’s “forgotten cities,” monumental ancient ruins, drawing a parallel with the contemporary devastation that has forced so many citizens to abandon beloved towns and villages and seek a better life in the capital. The documentary crew travels against this human wave. Framed in idiom of Arabic legend -- “once upon a time” (kan ya ma kan ayyam zaman) -- The Road to Damascus tells the all-too-real story of a failed nation.

Syria’s “Arab Spring,” protests of 2011, and the armed conflict that has ensued, lends a poignancy and urgency to a study of filmmaker Nabil Maleh’s life and work. The eminent director epitomizes the figure of the artist-activist, the socially committed and politically engaged cultural producer. As a young man in Syria just finishing his secondary education, Maleh decides to pursue law school in Czechoslovakia and ends up in film school in Prague before returning in 1964 to Syria, where he was already considered a dissident and outspoken activist against the regime. Maleh produced films in Syria upon his return, including The Leopard (al-Fahd) and The Extras (al-Kumpars), as well as a few documentaries commissioned by the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs, including The Road to Damascus (A Sham A Sham). Maleh’s films make social statements about the problems in Syrian society and as well as issues with the regime. As an activist, Maleh was also involved in political and social organizations including the Committee for the Revival of Civil Society. With Maleh for their spokesman, the collective met at the director’s Damascus home, airing concerns over the country’s increasing poverty, corruption, and militarization, and the growing influence of puritanical Salafi Islam. They signed a series of declarations calling for the same democratizing reforms that opposition groups of 2011–12 would demand. Through his films and his vibrant role in political and social reforms in Syria, Maleh is presenting a form of activism that can be presented through art and media and is illustrated in his film The Road to Damascus (A Sham A Sham) amongst others.

The event is cosponsored by the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Lehman College.