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Fantasia in Aleppo as regime holds a film festival Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Fantasia in Aleppo as regime holds a film festival

Film has been an important tool of propaganda for the Syrian regime [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2016

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While Syrians in East Aleppo are starved and targets of bombs, the city's regime-controlled west is about to hold a film festival.
Syrians can escape from daily scenes of death to the world of cinema this week, as the ministry of culture opens a film festival on Tuesday in war-torn Aleppo.

The two-week long film festival will take place at the al-Shabha hotel in the centre of the divided city, and comes on the back of a massive regime offensive to capture a neighbouring district.

Russian and regime war planes have pounded rebel-held East Aleppo incessantly over the past week, leaving more than 100 civilians dead and civilian infrastructure in ruins.

But as the death toll rises, Damascus appears to think it's also a good time for a film show.

Escape

Now, cinema-goers in Aleppo can enjoy the latest in Syrian cinema at the comparatively luxury if the al-Shahba hotel, while shells
 destroy homes just a short walk away.

There, real-life horror shows are unfolding on streets and homes while the last working hospital was destroyed in East Aleppo this weekend in an air raid.

It has left poorly-equipped medics treating the injured on floors and in make-shift field clinics.

While the city's elite munch on popcorn through the shows, more than 250,000 civilians remain trapped in the besieged district.

The last food rations have been handed out, and as the regime refusing to allow aid in East Aleppo stands on the brink of famine.

Employing sickening Orwellian terminology, Syria's state news said the festival aims at "supporting Aleppo city's steadfastness and restore its glory".  

Steadfastness and glory can only mean on thing for most Syrians - more bloodshed.

This could have been prevented. Foreign Minister Walid Muallem turned down a truce offer from the UN on Sunday which would allow some stability to return to the city.

The regime has made it clear that the only outcome it will accept is victory over the rebels and submission of Syrians - regardless of the human price.

Even regime-held West Aleppo has not been immune to the killing, when rebel shells reportedly hit a school killing eight children this weekend. 

Cities of death

The ministry of culture has chosen a number of cities to represent Syria as "culture capitals" this year with Aleppo selected as being an ambassador of cinema.

The list of the cities ironically mark some of the bloodiest stages and battles during the six-year war.
 
The Damascus countryside - which the site of the horrific Ghouta chemical attack in 2013 - was chosen by the regime as the capital of sculpture.

Daraa - where the revolution started following the torture and murder of Syrian child Hamza al-Khateeb - was chosen to represent Arabic calligraphy.

Homs - which has been flattened by regime carpet bombing and shelling - is the ambassador for "the story".

Meanwhile, Quneitra - a battlefield between Syrian rebels and mostly Lebanese militants from Hizballah - has been chosen as the capital of Literature of Resistance.

It would appear Damascus has been inspired by the words of "Resistance leader" Hassan Nasrallah who said that for Hizballah "the road to Jerusalem passes through Syria".

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