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Simple as Water directed by Megan Mylan
Simple as Water directed by Megan Mylan

Following its theatrical run, the documentary Simple as Water, from Academy Award winning filmmaker Megan Mylan (“Lost Boys of Sudan,” “Smile Pinki”), debuts Tuesday, November 16 (9:00-10:40 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO. The critically acclaimed film celebrated its world premiere on closing night of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

Epic in scope but intimate and elegant in feel, Simple as Water is a meditation on the elemental bonds between parent and child. A masterful look at the impact of war, separation and displacement, the film takes audiences into Syrian families’ quests for normalcy and through the whirlwind of obstacles – to building life anew. Filmed over the course of five years in five countries including Turkey, Greece, Germany, Syria and the US, Mylan’s sensitive camera reifies the universal importance of family.

Director Megan Mylan achieves remarkable intimacy and complexity in her films. Simple as Water is the result of meaningful collaboration with carefully selected crews of small teams from all over the world, many Syrian refugees themselves. Its stunning images were created with cinematographers that hail from three continents, are of three different racial and cultural backgrounds and whose lives span three different decades: Lars Skree (“The Act of Killing,” “The Look of Silence”), veteran DP Michael Chin (“Eyes on the Prize”), and “Rafia Salameh” a young woman who must remain anonymous for her safety and is credited with a pseudonym, working inside Syria.

Film subjects:

Yasmin is a young mother with four small children living in a tent in the port of Athens, Greece. She wades through Kafkaesque bureaucracies in her efforts to reunite with the children’s father, who is across closed borders in Germany. She does her best to create safe and loving routines that offer the children a glimmer of their life before the war and makes a point to talk about a beautiful future to come.

On the Syrian border with Turkey, Samra, a young widow is barely able to support her five young sons and is grappling with the decision to leave them at an orphanage so they might get an education and have a better life.

22-year-old Omar has taken on the role of parent of his younger brother in Pennsylvania. He helps him navigate the challenges of American high school while they wait to hear if they will be granted asylum in the US or sent back to Syria.

While half of all Syrians have fled the country, Diaa is part of the half that remain. She searches tirelessly for her adult son who was forcibly “disappeared” – all the while enduring the pain of not knowing his fate.

In Butzbach, Germany, Safwan and his roommate Abdullah are, like many Syrian fathers in Butzbach, living together in temporary housing. They work menial jobs and lament missing their children’s passing milestones of birthdays and lost teeth.

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