Under the Sky of Damascus
Heba Khaled, Talal Derki, Ali Wajeeh
Denmark. 2023. 88 min
A tight-knit group of young Syrian women embark upon on a radical project: producing a play that lays bare the culture of misogyny and sexual abuse that has blighted the lives of females in their country for generations. Farah, Eliana, Inana, Souhir and Grace want to blow the whistle on women’s oppression, though they know their production will make it even harder for them to get work. Collaborating with exiled Syrian filmmakers Heba Khaled (making her feature debut) and Talal Derki (the Oscar-nominated OF FATHERS AND SONS)—and Ali Wajeeh on the ground in Damascus—the women fan out through the war-weary city to gather individual stories that will form the basis of their play. They record testimonies from across the socio-economic spectrum, from actresses to factory workers to stay-at-home mothers. What emerges are variations of the same harrowing tale: stories of abuse, blackmail and even imprisonment at hands of husbands, brothers, fathers, employers and powerful officials who wield unchecked patriarchal power to keep them trapped without access to justice.
But the issues explored in both the play and film are closer than they appear… Just as the team of filmmakers and their subjects are making progress in their collaborative expose, one member of the group unexpectedly quits the project. As the truth behind her decision is revealed, everyone involved is forced to confront—in painfully intimate terms—the very exploitation they’ve been documenting.
Heba Khaled was born in Damascus and studied Arabic Literature at Damascus University. She worked as freelance fixer for CNN, and Reuters in Damascus and Beirut between 2011 and 2013 and worked as a writer and executive producer on these and other Arab media channels.
- SLICED ONION AWARD FOR THE BEST SHORT FILM at MAKEDOX FESTIVAL 2018
- Grand Prix for best short at Berlin Liberi Film Festival 2018
- Best Director at International Film Festival of Sriganangar IFFS 2019
- Short Days Film Festival Award in Italy
- Best Short at Independent Film Collaborative 2019
- FIRST INTERNATIONAL DANZANTE AWARD at Huesca International Film Festival
Talal Derki was born in Damascus (1977) and has been based in Berlin since 2013. He studied film directing in Athens.
Talal Derkis short films and feature length documentaries received many awards at various festivals. Both of his films Return to Homs and Of Fathers and Sons won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival 2014 and 2018.
He was Oscar nominated for a Academy Award and winner of the German Film Awards (Lola) in 2019 for Of Fathers and Sons. He became member of the Academy same year.
- 2018 – People of the Wasteland, short experimental, producer
- 2017 – Of Fathers & Sons, feature documentary, director, and co-producer
- 2016 – Ode to Lesvos, short documentary, producer, and director
- 2013 – Return to Homs, feature documentary, director
- 2011 – Hero of the Sea, short documentary, director, and producer
Ali Wajeeh was born in Lattakia (1985) has been working as film critic for Arab newspapers and websites for many years. Wrote several Arab TV series, award-winning short movies, and plays.
With his extensive knowledge of Syrian and Arab film production, he has also been drama consultant for production companies and platforms.
- Feature Movies
- Under the Sky of Damascus (Documentary) (Director)
- Short Movies & Plays
- Azbakiyah Station (2011) (Play) (Writer & Director)
- Marrow (Nukhaa) (2012) (Short) (Writer)
- Syrian Flash (2011) (Web Drama) (Writer)
- Circling (Dawaran) (2013) (Short) (Writer)
- The Man Who Made a Movie (2014) (Short) (Writer)
- Smile, You’re Dying (2014) (Short) (Writer)
“Under the Sky of Damascus” centers on a tight-knit group of young Syrian women embarking on a radical and dangerous project. They gather secretly in war-weary Damascus to build a play based on explosive first-person testimony from countless women across the country. Requiring the utmost discretion, their conversations reveal a rampant and devastating crisis of domestic and workplace violence against women, much of it unreported due to fear of retaliation.
The ongoing protests by women everywhere in Iranian society have resulted in news coverage throughout all media platforms.
We are pleased with this and hope to see similar protests arise in Syria.
Our story reflects the importance of these protests and the struggle for women’s rights, not just in Iran and Syria, but throughout the MENA region.
The narrative of “Under the Sky of Damascus” documents the first ever witness accounts from Syrian women who have been too afraid to speak up in public until now.
These women have been kept silent for too long, and with our story we aim to do everything in our power to make sure they are heard.