YIDFF 2017 International Competition
A Memory in Khaki
An Interview with Alfoz Tanjour (Director)

A Dream in a Khaki-Colored World

Q: Unlike other documentary films on Syria, this film has a strong, very novel element of a dramatic film. The little boy who periodically appears in the film—was he meant to represent your childhood?

AT: That boy was a symbol not only of my own childhood, but also of many things, including how Syrians are raised. Under the Baath Party administration, which has been in power for over 40 years, we Syrians are made to wear khaki uniforms as our school uniforms between the ages of 12 and 18. Everyone carries this memory. The red color of his T-shirt, which the boy wears under his uniform, has come to symbolize freedom and resistance for me, who has been oppressed for so long. Moreover, the boy, who is brimming with life, signifies the transience of not knowing when your life might be snuffed out by a stray bullet. There is also a scene where he makes a rifle out of wood, but there is no way he can fight with that. Under the Baath Party administration, we were taught such ridiculous things. That is what I wanted to express with that scene.

Q: Throughout the film, you make frequent use of dreamlike scenes, and I think they produce a depth to the issues. Was this mode of expression a deliberate choice?

AT: The events that became the subject of this film are still ongoing. As a Syrian, I cannot view this subject from a distance. However, I didn’t want to make a journalistic film. I studied dramatic films, and I like writing scripts. People have seen shocking images of wounded Syrians and crying babies many times over, so I didn’t want to show those kinds of images. I instead tried to convey what is happening now through a perspective, a means of expression distinct from those images, opting for symbolic representations, and a creative style of filming. Also, in order to portray people with dignity, and build a relationship of honesty between myself and others, I thought it would be best to film friends who share the same dreams and pain. Accordingly, everyone who appears in the film is my friend.

Q: Is there a place in Syria that you particularly like or that holds special connections for you?

AT: It’s Salamiyah, a small town where my mother lived. I haven’t seen my mother in 6 years, but I talk to her everyday on the phone, and check whether she’s still getting by. I hear that recently, they are being attacked by various forces, and that it seems like every day that missiles are coming their way. The second most important place for me is Damascus, where I once lived. I have many friends who live there, and I hope that I will be able to drink coffee there again with my wife and two children.

I thought that, by making this film, I could drive out “A Memory in Khaki” from within myself, but it wasn’t like that at all. Even now, everyday, I live within this memory.

(Compiled by Abenoki Tatsuya)

Interviewers: Abenoki Tatsuya, Numazawa Zenichiro / Interpreter: Yamanouchi Etsuko / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Akashi Moeka / Video: Toba Rio / 2017-10-08