A powerful new documentary about the early days of the uprising in Syria will be shown at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, in Southampton, on Saturday Dec. 10, beginning at 7 p.m. The event is in some ways a tribute to the community’s role in sponsoring Syrian refugees. The Saugeen Shores Refugee Group is hosting the event, with support from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Affairs Canada.
The film, Little Gandhi, is an award-winning look at the role of Syrian peace activist Ghiyath Matar, who became an iconic figure in Syria’s freedom movement for giving flowers and water to troops sent to break up non-violent protests in the town of Daraya, in the early days of the uprising. Matar died in the custody of Syrian security forces in 2011.
The 2015 film was funded by IDRC’s Governance and Justice unit as part of a project on transitional justice with the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
The film’s director, Sam Kadi, led a production team that took considerable risks to shoot a good part of the film in Syria. Many interviews were set in Daraya, which was still totally under siege by government forces at the time. Local activists were given a crash course in filmmaking via Skype and getting the footage back to the production team took months because of the difficulty in getting it out of the war zone.
It has been nearly one year since the town of Saugeen Shores opened its arms to the Alibrahim family. This 14-member Syrian family escaped the destruction of Aleppo and fled to Lebanon several years before making its way to Canada. Thanks to incredibly generous financial donations and countless hours of hard work by volunteers within the community, the family has settled in well, learning English quickly and figuring out how to navigate a culture that is drastically different from their own.
Said Katherine Martinko, coordinator of the Saugeen Shores Refugee Group:
“Looking at our happily settled newcomers, it can be difficult to remind ourselves that the war in Syria is ongoing. There are still bombs and gunfire in the streets. People, including children, continue to die, whether it’s from the fighting, lack of access to medical care, or not enough food.
“As Canadians and outsiders, living so far from the conflict zone, the war is difficult to comprehend; however, striving for a better understanding of it will ultimately make us better hosts to our own newcomers — those already here, and those yet to come — as well as clarify cross-cultural misunderstandings and, ideally, fill us with greater compassion toward those in great need.”
Immediately after the Dec. 10 screening at the museum, audience members will have the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion involving the film’s director (who will join by Skype) as well as Roula El-Rifai from the IDRC and Marie-Therese Helal from Global Affairs Canada.
The film was recognized by the European Independent Film Festival as the Best Feature Documentary in Arab Filmmaking and has been screened around the world. It is now touring major Canadian centres. But as a nod to the role that small communities like Saugeen Shores played in sponsoring Syrian refugees, a special screening is being mounted here. A second screening in the area will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 11, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Huron County Museum, in Goderich, hosted by Welcome Project Syria.
Admission to both screenings is free, but space is limited, so tickets must be reserved online. Please book through Eventbrite at this link: