LITTLE GANDHI by SAM KADI (Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, USA), Arab Special Section

Sunday morning / April 10th / 7 Parnassiens, 14:08

There is a large chance that we will hear or read the word ‘Syria’, at least once a day. Whether we are reading it in the newspapers, or hearing it on the news, we cannot help but associate the country with war, refugees and terrorism.

But what is the Syrian Revolution? Who is behind it? What does it mean and what consequences does it have on today’s situation in Syria? Surprisingly, it is quite difficult to get the answers to these questions from newspapers, tv news or even radio stations. This lack of information is what ultimately drove Sam Kadi to shed light on Syria, in order to unveil the personal anecdotes of the people who have grown up in such turmoil. The result? The film LITTLE GANDHI, which received a special screening at the U.S. Congress in March, 2016. These are just some of the reasons why Little Gandhi is in the Official Selection of ÉCU 2016.

Native Syrian Sam Kadi has been living in the U.S since 2000. After graduating from the Motion Picture Institute in Troy, Michigan, in 2007, he went on to produce and direct a series of short films including the multiple festival prize-winner “RAISED ALONE”. Kadi’s following work was the acclaimed feature drama, “THE CITIZEN”, which received five awards on the international festival circuit before being released theatrically worldwide in 2013.

After these successes, Sam started working on the feature documentary project, LITTLE GANDHI, which entered the ÉCU 2016 Official Selection. Little Gandhi was made to build a better understanding of what the Syrian Revolution is all about and what it stands for. In particular, the director wanted to reveal the truth about the Syrian heroes who first initiated a movement for social change several years before the Arab Spring. In their own words, the group of brave activists were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, and were “willing to give birth to a peaceful movement uprising in spite of the unprecedented violence by the Syrian regime”. Sam Kadi chose to focus his film on the man who encapsulated the youthful idealism of Syria’s grass-roots protest movement, and who pioneered the tactic of handing out roses and water to the troops sent to shoot demonstrators: a young tailor and peace activist called Ghiyath Matar. Little Gandhi gives a voice to the waves of people who were rallied by this hero. Ghiyath’s life events and horrible death at the age of 26 while in custody, after being brutally tortured, have quickly been forgotten by the international community.  However, this event became the spark for one of the most violent uprisings in modern history in Daraya, his native town, and Syria in general.

Sam Kadi’s work is as heroic as the protagonists of his film. On a shoestring budget, the director shot a good part of the film in Syria which was an almost entirely full-on war zone.  Furthermore, he set a lot of interviews in Daraya while the city was totally under siege by the government with no possible access to it. This is why the film team connected online with young local activists who could help with the shooting after a crash course in filmmaking on Skype! Getting the footage into producers’ hands took over 6 months due to the slow internet (1GB per week) and a long process of smuggling it out of the country on small thumb drives to Turkey. The result was worth it.

As a member of the Directors Guild of America, Kadi has been recognized by the renowned Cinema For Peace organization for raising awareness of human rights issues through motion pictures, and was asked to speak on the same subject before The International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands in June 2012. In 2013 Kadi was presented with a Humanitarian Service Award by the Life for Relief and Development Organization, and in 2014 was chosen as a Spotlight Juror by the SHOAH Foundation. For these and other contributions, Kadi has been featured on CNN, FOX, Sky News, Huffington Post TV, NPR, Variety, Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times among other domestic and international outlets.

Sam Kadi’s film is as inspirational as Ghiyath Matar was to the Syrian revolution movement. The feeling that you get while watching Little Gandhi is the strong need to immediately share this story with the rest of the world. This poignant documentary will be screened on Sunday April 10th at 2pm at the cinema theatre 7 Parnassians in Paris, France. Moreover, ÉCU will have the pleasure of having director Sam Kadi attend the festival with one Syrian peace activist who took part in the film. Do not miss the chance to be truly inspired, get your ticket now!

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