text about the film
Excerpt of book chapter "Cracking the Wall of Fear" by Miriam Cooke
In 2000, film-makers Muhammad Malas and Hala Alabdallah produced their adaptation of Ghassan al-Jabai's 1994 short story On the Sand under the Sun. It was finally possible for this terrible story to be performed and filmed, even if the film had not yet been released for public screening. Whereas al-Jabai had scripted executions so indirectly as to be illegible, by 2000 the incomprehensible became crystal clear. Malas, Alabdallah and al-Jabai staged and then filmed the surreal story "written" in Tadmor prison. Al-Jabai had written the story in his head in defiance of the prohibition of writing. But the film portrays the writing as ink on paper next to an over floating ashtray behind bars. Signifying beyond lexical meanings, the written words had evoked the choking, coughing, airlessness of the cell. In stark contrast with this textual allusiveness, the film literally presents torture and the handwritten words etched black on the white of the clean sheet of paper. The actor - young, strong, and attractive in their black slacks and tee-shirts - enter carrying cage walls. They build the cells around themselves, the barbed wire roof is lowered onto the bars, a crown of thorns, and al-Jabai, playing himself, commands them to whip the ground. A shower of lashes and then, abruptly, the actors dismantle the structure and leave. There are no oil drops - the shadows of last night's victims on the yard wall - only unambiguous shapes of hanging cadavers. The camera's focus reveals the secrets of the allusions; they become dully familiar.
(from: Cooke, Miriam (2017): Dancing in Damascus: Creativity. Resilience, and the Syrian Revolution, London/New York, p. 26f)