Monday was an unforgettable day for Arab cinema. The Day I Lost My Shadow (Yom Adaatou Zouli) made history as the first-ever Syrian film to screen in competition at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, which is currently underway in the Italian city. The movie, which was produced by Soudade Kaadan, stars a predominantly Syrian—mainly refugee—crew and cast. In fact, the lead actress, Sawsan Arsheed, was an asylum seeker who is now based in France, while many of the cast were scouted from Syria. “I insisted on including my community in the film. There is nothing like the real face of somebody who has endured war,” Kaadan told Reuters.
The fictional feature film, which was seven years in the making, is set in 2012 Syria at the brink of war. It tells the story of a woman named Sana who is on the hunt for a gas canister to cook a warm meal for her son during the coldest winter the country has experienced. While she’s searching for gas, she finds herself stuck in a besieged area of the Syrian capital where she learns that people “lose their shadow during war”.
“The most important thing is to show how a Syrian and a human being endures the war. We were not prepared for this war,” said the 38-year-old, who was born in France but raised in Damascus. “The shadow is an emotional experience during the war and I think all who witness war… will find it echoes,” she added.
Of course, Kaadan was unable to shoot the movie in Syria, but she was committed to finding locations that looked like the levant country, even if it meant moving every two to three days. So she decided to shoot in the Syria-Lebanon border, with post-production taking place in Beirut, France, and Greece.
Following its premiere on Monday, the film will go on to screen at Toronto Film Festival, and has just been announced for the first feature competition at BFI London Film Festival in October.
Watch the official trailer here.