Séverine Chavanne
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14 May, 2012

Wassim Al-Adel (Photo: Donna Noel)
Wassim Al-Adel (Photo: Donna Noel)
‘The film One Word of Truth is like a prophecy of what is happening in Syria,’ said Syrian writer and blogger Wassim Al-Adel, speaking at a Greencoat film show in the UK Initiatives of Change centre in London, on 8 May. The film was introduced by its producer Patrick Colquhoun from Anglo-Nordic Productions and was followed by a testimonial by Al-Adel, who explained how the film’s message had helped him overcome his despair at the current situation in Syria.

Based on Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize Lecture – written in 1970 but never delivered – the film explores the link between violence and lies, and the role art and literature can play against both of them. A new release of the film with Arabic subtitles has just been made available.

‘Solzhenitsyn saw the lie as the vital link holding everything together in a totalitarian situation,’ said Colquhoun. ‘Violence can only be maintained by the lie and the lie can only be maintained by violence. The lie is institutionalized; it represents the ladder, the way up. If you want food, success, power, education, work and security more than your integrity, you compromise and become part of the lie.”

‘People wouldn’t openly condemn violence’

After the film, Wassim Al-Adel explained how this applied to the situation in Syria. He told how he witnessed his country descend into violence and how he felt despair starting to sink in: ‘There was this shameless aggression happening and there was nothing anybody could do about it. People point the finger and say it’s wrong but this has no effect.’

Then people started buying into the lies of the government. ‘Over months, the narrative was being constructed about the West influencing the revolution; this idea of foreign influence was spread. People then started defending the regime and feeling OK about its actions. Division appeared within society, even in my family. People wouldn’t openly condemn the violence, they would say: “We don’t know what’s happening” and that’s the best we could get from them.’

Wassim says the government’s lies are not surprising; what is deeply disturbing is the willingness of educated people to want to believe them.

‘Once violence is hitting, art says: “Look how ugly it is”.’

Patrick Colquhoun (Photo: Donna Noel)
Patrick Colquhoun (Photo: Donna Noel)
‘But after watching this film, the quote about violence needing the lie touched something in me,’ he continued. ‘I sent the quote to my friends; they were astonished; it was inspirational; it reminded us what we were trying to do.’ He decided to point the finger at what the government is doing and say no. ‘It was the only thing I could do.’ He quoted a sentence from Solzhenitsyn: ‘Let the world be dominated by the lie but not through me.’

Wassim said that ‘many revolutions before have been crushed but it’s comforting to know dictators fight a never-ending battle and are constantly under the pressure of having to lie and be believed. All we have to do is be true to what we believe in; they can’t step on our faces with their boots forever.’

The film’s philosophical approach of dealing with brutality through art was new to Wassim, who found it very valuable. Questioned about how art could make a difference, he answered: ‘Once violence is hitting, art says: “No it’s not normal.” It says: “It’s ok to be upset.” It strips away the veil of the lies. It says: “Look how ugly it is”.’

This inspired one of the participants who takes part in literature festivals to suggest the film should be shown in such festivals and be the subject of a debate. She said it could then fully play its role as an artistic instrument of change.

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