In 1943, after the French Mandate ended and Lebanon became an independent nation, the borders drawn had divided several families because of an arbitrary line made by European powers. In 1945, Syria too became autonomous, which make things interesting for my mother’s family as now half of her relatives were Lebanese and the other half Syrian as this line cut through a predominately Greek Orthodox region.
When I was presented with After Spring, a story about the Zaatari Refugee Camp, which has become the fourth largest city in Jordan, housing 80,000 Syrians, with more than half being under the age of 18; I knew from the opening credits that this documentary would be leaning against the Al Assad regime, as a Syrian Opposition flag flies early (and repeatedly) in this documentary, and especially with former Daily Show host Jon Stewart as one of the executive producers. If that wasn’t enough to know which way it would sway, former Secretary of State John Kerry is shown about halfway through doing humanitarian work.
Directed by Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez, After Spring shows images that never identify various groups shown prior to the war as the indigenous Christian Assyrians/Arameans but implies they are all Arabized citizens of Syria. It must be noted that the song used in the background around 18 minutes in is sung in Aramaic, not Arabic, again the language of the indigenous people.
Whether the Western viewing audience realized this or not, they are being exposed to a heterogeneous society with ancient ties and modern conveniences that were taken away from them by fanatics backed by foreign powers with their own agendas who hijacked the Arab Spring.
After Spring focuses primarily on Muslim refugees. The suffering for all the ethnic groups, whether Assyrian/Arameans, Levant Greeks or Arabs is the same and in some instances worse for others.
There are several mis-translations in the documentary, but does not skew the narrative that Syrian people, like Lebanese, Assyrians, Yazidis, Iraqis, etc. are all very proud of their lineage and believe that not only will they rebuild their lives, but will build it better than before.
After Spring isn’t a shocking documentary, especially for those of us that either lived through it or had family who suffered and endured. During the Lebanese Civil War the most common response I heard from relatives when asking, “How are you?” was, “We’re alive.” A phrase that I heard so often as a child that it has become my standard response.
After Spring begins airing on Friday, February 10th, on the Starz networks.
If you are still interested in this topic, then I highly recommend the short documentary by Syrian born Assyrian, Sargon Saadi, called After the Storm, which focuses on the indigenous refugees who escaped Iraq and Syria after the rise of DAESH.
A strong documentary about the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan that only makes a couple of missteps with the English translations, but the narrative remains the same. These proud people are suffering yet remain hopeful.