The documentary film, The Story Won’t Die, which demonstrates the resilience of exiled Syrian artist-refugees who process their pain and circumstances through music, painting, dancing and other mediums will premiere at the 2021 AFI Docs Film Festival
The film will screen at virtually across the United States on June 26th and 27th, and in person at the AFI Silver Theater in Washington, DC on June 27th at 2:15pm EST.
Premiering at the 10 year anniversary of the uprising that induced the Syrian Civil War, this documentary honors the creative spirit of those displaced while seeking justice, and recognizes their immense capacity even in the face of utter despair and destruction.
Director David Henry Gerson, whose father was a refugee and whose parents survived the Holocaust, elaborated on this intense, personal pull, sharing his humanitarian motivation to film The Story Won’t Die:
“The question that most instigated me in making this film was how does one process horrors witnessed, horrors that induced fleeing of a homeland? This film became an investigation into what it means to live a life in exile, internal or external, and how to turn grief into action—both of a political nature as well as a metaphysical one.”
Talal Derki, the Syrian Academy-Award Nominated director of Of Fathers and Sons, remarks that The Story Won’t Die, told through the lens of 8 artists at various stages of their careers, is “a film mixed from poetry, music, colors and dreams that has created a new vision of the Syrian tragedy…[it] makes you believe that nothing will go in vain.”
The film, meant to provide intimate encounters with individual artists, introduces viewers to a range of experiences. Through Syrian rapper Abu Hajar, for example—who, after being tortured by Bashar Al-Assad for his lyrics uses his music to survive and carry on in exile—and with Diala Brisly, a visual artist whose work is celebrated by museums like The Met and whose work with children largely informs her socially-conscious practice, we can more profoundly see, hear, and understand the the lifeline that is Art. Simultaneously, The Story Won’t Die is committed to educating viewers on the political unrest spurring resistance. Artist and activist Shepard Fairey said, “The Story Won’t Die will move audiences to greater awareness and understanding of the Syria crisis. We’ve all seen footage of bombed-out buildings in Syria and statistics, but it’s the individual stories that will make everyone see themselves in the people in this film. Art humanizes. This film humanizes.”
This is Gerson’s debut feature following his AFI thesis film, All These Voices, which won the Student Academy Award® in 2016. His first short documentary film, Ultra Violet for Sixteen Minutes, is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NY.