Syrian film “A Tale in Damascus” is more than just a standard love story – it portrays the special sense of love humans hold for their native homes, professions and heritage.
Set in the old city of Damascus, the film centres on young Lina (played by Gianna Aneid), who creates oriental handicrafts to sell in a shop in the Bab Sharqi neighborhoud, a place that exemplifies the authentic pulse of the Syrian capital.
Throughout the film, Lina is portrayed as a woman of extraordinary determination, who with the support of her friends is able to overcome numerous challenges to pursue her work.
The other protagonist, Uncle Wajih, (played by Ghassan Massoud) is an old man who has witnessed a great deal in the storied city throughout his long life, and treasures many memories of its people, alleys, workers and markets.
Uncle Wajih grows deeply distressed after a close friend passes away and begins losing memories, but presses ahead and continues to cling to the places that remind him of his city and the people and professions he loves.
The love and longing for the old, original, patriotic city of Damascus creates a special bond between young Lina and Uncle Wajih.
While the film presents a contemporary story embodied by Lina, it takes a historical dimension through the character of Uncle Wajih that seeks to convey a spirit of authenticity and preserve the past.
Events of two different eras come together in the film. Through flashbacks, the movie goes through the lives of people living in times of war who endure much suffering and hope for a better future.
The film’s events take on added drama against the backdrop of the Syrian war, although the conflict is not prominently featured in the drama. There is none of the blood, bodies or destruction usually seen in films about war. Instead, it focuses on people’s reflections, feelings, pains and details of their everyday lives.
In doing so, the film draws out its principal theme – the value of love even amid the reality of war.
“The secret of love that the film features is the reason that made a city like Damascus so vibrant throughout its history,” said director Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed.
“A Tale in Damascus” is Ahmed’s second feature film after “What Happened,” which is based on a literary text by Mahmoud Abdel Wahid entitled “When the Bell Rings.”
Ahmed dove into Syrian history in his first film, recounting the story of a small village in three successive periods to reflect the country’s political reality at the time. Villagers there grow roses and manufacture basic material for perfume, which becomes the source of greed for some Europeans who eventually come to steal the secret craft and establish the Parisian and European perfume industry. The filmmaker’s detailed historical account is clear and compelling.
In his second film, Ahmed relies more on the character Uncle Wajih’s nostalgia than historical documentation to convey his message.