Like his earlier powerful tale of escape, Purple Sea (2020), this documentary by Khaled Abdulwahed (winner of the Grand Prix at FIDMarseille) is about bridging distances. Now himself a Syrian refugee in Germany, he traces the footsteps of his father Sadallah, who 60 years ago studied in East Germany—like the Syria of the past, it is a country that no longer exists.
Once long ago invited to East Germany, Sadallah had not been able to join his son after the civil war broke out, despite Abdulwahed’s best efforts. In recordings of a faltering phone connection from battered Aleppo—an occasional explosion can be heard in the background—we hear Sadallah’s nostalgic reminiscences of a lost time and a lost era.
We hear voices, but see no faces. What we do see is Abdulwahed’s view of German residential blocks, a railroad yard, an industrial zone. And we see his hands as he carefully photo-shops some of his father’s early photos to create new “old” pictures of the places in Germany where his father lived. It is a loving attempt to fill the historical gaps in the story of a father and a son; a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm of politics, war, and long-lost ideals.