Logline: A ruthless dictator wages war on his own people, forcing two young Syrian activists on a mission to save their country. They dare to go where the media can’t and do what foreign leaders won’t. Until the world acts, they’re on their own.
Current Status: In distribution.
Length: 98 minutes
Writer: Andrea Kalin
Director: Andrea Kalin and Oliver Lukacs
Producer: Andrea Kalin
About the directors: Andrea Kalin: Kalin, founder of Spark Media, is a celebrated filmmaker whose movies have screened internationally and won over 85 industry awards. For more information, visit www.sparkmedia.org. Oliver Lukacs: Co-director Oliver Lukacs was previously a producer, DP and collaborating editor on No Evidence of Disease, and an associate producer on Soul of a People.
Looking for (ie buyer, distributor, sales agent, producer, media interest) Media interest
Congratulations! Why did you decide to make this film?
As chaos in Syria and the refugee crisis continues to spread, and the United States finds itself getting pulled back into Iraq to prevent total regional collapse, Red Lines becomes more and more required viewing for anyone who needs context and an entry point into these rapidly escalating and complex events.
Too often we hear about these unimaginable atrocities yet we go about our day-to-day lives like nothing is happening. There's an emotional divide between what we intellectually know about the world and how we feel about that knowledge. We wanted to close that gap with this story.
Why is it called Red Lines?
On one level, the title is a clear reference to President Obama’s “red lines” speech, when he said there would be consequences if the Assad regime attacked its own people with chemical weapons – as we all know, the Assad regime crossed this red line and the U.S. did not react – a move that I feel has only emboldened Assad. But the title also refers to the red lines our two main characters are willing to cross to bring peace and democracy to their country, and even to our own personal red lines. At what point will we say enough is enough?
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
We want people to become enraged but more importantly we want people to become engaged. We want people to be inspired by Mouaz and Razan – two college-age youths, who with almost no help, take it upon themselves to try to save their country, risk their lives to smuggle humanitarian aid, and do everything in their power to topple a dictator who is killing his own people.
While world leaders, particularly those in the U.S., are focused on defeating ISIS, Red Lines helps viewers understand how an organization like ISIS emerged, the root causes of the fighting, and how the conflict turned into one of the most daunting humanitarian catastrophes of our time.
The numbers only tell part of the story. The most recent number we’ve heard is that over 470,000 people have been killed since the revolution started. More than 12 million Syrians are displaced. It's important for a film like Red Lines to humanize these statistics and to help audiences realize there is a human being with a heart and soul behind each number. The humanity behind these numbers should not be forgotten.
How did you find the main characters?
We met Mouaz serendipitously at a dinner party, and we were immediately drawn to the passion and resolve of this young man’s story. We spoke for hours about his commitment to use his connections in Washington, DC and the power of social media to try and make a difference. We immediately knew that this was a story we needed to tell. During the early days of production, we followed him to Turkey where he met with Razan, who was already working on smuggling humanitarian aid into Syria and was seeking an outlet to expand her work. It seemed like a perfect alliance.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. The film won Best Documentary at the Woodstock Film Festival and was a Top 20 Audience Favorite at Hot Docs. More important is the number of university and community screenings that have happened over the last two years. There is a desire to understand how the crisis in Syria and the refugee crisis that escalated in its wake, got to this point, and the film does lay the groundwork for the crisis.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
There are a few viewers who have come into the film looking for more journalistic coverage or for some sort of political answer to the crisis. Clearly, this is a huge political news story, but we're also telling the story in the context of film. This is not a journalistic treatment, but a documentary. We're making art.
How these two threads intersect is fascinating.
From the beginning we wanted to try to establish Mouaz and Razan's crazy agendas and schedules. Moving from the dust and sunlight to suits, Big Ben and inside meetings with members of British Parliament, representatives from the U.S. Congress, or officials from the White House, we wanted to provide right away what being on the road means for these two young activists.
During the meeting in London, when we flash back to Khirbet-al Joz, the audience gets a sense of "this is what we saw." It is an opportunity for the audience to also become a witness. This was a good opportunity to reflect on the contrasts our film tries to expose; to show the daunting gap in understanding between what was happening on the ground and in the halls of power. That prevailing disconnect has had grave consequences, which we are embroiled in today.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
The media has often misrepresented what is happening in the Middle East and that has led to many of the misconceptions that color the policies towards intervention and even towards helping Syrian refugees fleeing the violence. For Red Lines, as well as with our other films, we hoped to capture precious slices of life that can contextualize the viewers’ points of view.
In Red Lines, a trip into the field leads to children playing with bullets by their bombed-out school, or an orphaned bird being hand fed by a child who also lost his mother and father, or a child refugee with a stoic and steady voice who describes in a makeshift tent how Assad's air strikes and barrel bombs turned her previously peaceful village into a war zone. These are the moments that provide audiences with an up-close and intimate look at the Syrian conflict, using the lens of the camera to balance the facts on the ground with visual metaphor and the emotional stories of people caught in the middle.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify the message of this film?
With the film finished and in distribution, we are looking for partners who could act as force multipliers – frankly, the more people who see the film, and use it to educate and inspire their viewers, the better. And we are open to collaborating with other festivals, universities and journalists.
What type of impact has this film had?
While we don’t know the answer to solving the crisis in Syria or other problems facing the world today, we do know how to make films. And we hope that our work challenges perceptions, pries open a space in reluctant hearts, helps restore empathy and paves the way for activism that leads to lasting impact.
We have seen people inspired by the film’s message and by Mouaz and Razan’s resolve to keep the struggle alive, and who have tried to help in what way they can. What has moved us the most is the local community groups that have contacted us, asking if they can screen the film to raise donations for Syrian refugee families that are moving to the area.
With the refugee crisis getting worse and the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris making people understandably frightened, it is so moving to see groups coming together to help these families that are just trying to escape the violence and begin their lives in a new home. We are proud that the film is playing a small part in helping that effort.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this film?
How did the world get to this point? Five years ago, could anyone have predicted that the Arab Spring-related protests in Syria would evolve into an armed revolt then a civil war and then a proxy war with Russian, Iranian and Saudi-backed groups all fighting against each other?
This war has led to one of the worst refugee crises in history, and to the expansion of a very real threat to global security in ISIS. We want the film to make people think about the decisions that were made to get to this point. And what can we do to course correct and hopefully stop the violence.
What are the directors working on now?
We are just finishing post-production on an exciting new documentary called First Lady of the Revolution. This is the true story of Henrietta Boggs, a young woman from the American South who visited relatives in Costa Rica and fell in love with the foreign land and the man destined to transform its identity.
Her marriage to José Figueres in 1941 led to a decade-long adventure through activism, exile and political upheaval, and ultimately, to lasting progressive reforms. It’s a deeply personal project for us, and very exciting. We plan to premiere in the U.S. and Costa Rica this Fall, and broadcast on public television in the Spring. You can learn more at www.firstladyoftherevolution.com.