The story is centred around Leila, a mother of nine children, two of whom were born in Jordan. She crossed the border from Syria while pregnant, so that her children would no longer have to run away from the bombs. As she did back home, Leila works non-stop, serving the men in the family and taking care of the children. Her whole world is now the Zaatari refugee camp, a world fenced with barbed wire.
Her husband, Selim would like nothing better than join his brothers in the war, not just out of pride and not wanting to be thought of as unmanly but also the deadly boredom brought about by watching TV all day. But his mother, the family matriarch, bestowed upon him the role of protector of the clan. So he hangs around.
Mohammed, one of their sons, is nine years old. Every day, he rises at dawn, takes his place in the queue that snakes between the camps tents, to wait for bread. He has a broad smile and takes on many adult responsibilities. His parents speak of losing their identities here; Mohammed is in the process of building his own as a man.
What role has a woman, a man, a child, when forced to adapt to adapt to a hostile situation? What is this tie that binds the family, gets them through life from day to day, and is also the source of such frustration. How, and at what cost, has this family managed to forge a new sanctuary?
What’s new in our approach to these themes is that we follow Leila’s family through time, building trust with each visit to Zaatari. What they share with and show us is a story of exceptional intimacy.
Family screening of the footage from the first visit
Zaatari houses more than 100,000 people in tents and containers. Day after day here, nothing much happens. Having fallen away from the spotlight of the world’s media, the issue of refugees is once again centre stage, suddenly a matter of urgent international importance.
What this film strives to convey is that Selim and Leila, and all the other refugees, are not just statistics: they can’t be reduced to anonymous faces; they are just like us, three-dimensional human beings with rich pasts, complex presents and aspirations for the future.
Through the frustrations, hopes and dreams of one family, the intention of this film is to keep alive the reality of the Syrian crisis.
Zaatari refugee camp, it 's now the third biggest city of Jordan
This film covers a long period of time. It has no narration, giving Leila, Selim and Mohammed the space to tell us what it’s like to lose everything – except hope! – to be stuck in the camp, waiting for news from the rest of the family back home, to try nonetheless to keep going, to laugh over a coffee and sometimes to curse the sky for one’s impotence.
Zaatari project is both in the can and still in the making. With your help it can be brought to fruition. We want to re-edit everything we have filmed in Zaatari over the past three years to make a 52 minute film that escapes the confines of reportage to give Leila and her family the time to tell their real story, to let the images sink in, the viewer to absorb everything.
From the start, the independence of this film has been very important to us. We always saw it as a long term project that would not be beholden to the conventions of any broadcaster’s template. You can help us tell this story the way we believe it should be told.
When Mohammed hardly insist to be part of the film crew