Diana El Jeiroudi, Director Lina and Orwa Nyrabia attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival “5 Seasons Of Revolution” Premiere at Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
By Stephanie Ornelas
When Syrian journalist and director Lina started documenting what was then still called a revolution in her country, she and her group of friends didn’t think it would last too long. The promise of an Arab Spring — a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions — had reached Damascus, where she lived with her family, and she wanted to document everything happening around her.
But as attacks continue to fall upon her people, and protesters start to become jailed, the aspiring young video journalist (and a talented one at that) is thrust into a new world of war reporting. The result of this is 5 Seasons of Revolution: a personal and intimate story of a young generation living inside a revolution, and the struggle to find freedom.
She goes by the name of “Lina” to protect her identity. Trouble is never far away for her group of friends, local journalists, and revolutionaries, where arrest is just around the corner and they’re constantly avoiding army checkpoints and officers. Putting together footage she shot of herself and her peers as the revolution was going down in her homeland, she chronicles her days filled with tension, anxiety, and a lot of waiting for friends to make it back safely from a march…. or from prison.
Throughout the film, Lina has to adopt different identities and roles. She’s not only in the film as a protester and journalist, but she’s also a narrator. She talked about having to navigate difficult situations that occurred throughout production, like the death of a friend.
During the post-premiere Q&A in Park City, Lina talks to audience members about the challenges that came with balancing different personalities in the film and how important it was to capture each unique experience. “It was tricky at the time of filming,” she explains. “To continue to be part of the group and not mess up the shoot at the same time. But to a certain extent, it kind of helped the characters relax.”
“There are many stories and voices,” Lina continues. “You have to mix them together in a way that makes sense and doesn’t confuse people too much, but also respects the different narratives. In the editing room we would talk about Maya, we’d talk about Lina, we just had to step out completely for the characters.”
While the film is a haunting portrait of a young generation whose lives are upended by the Syrian war, there are also welcomed moments of levity and humor as it follows friends who are trying to stand up for what’s right — for their country and its people.
“It was years of filming. What we saw here is sort of a sample of things that happened. And humor is absolutely essential to help us survive through it,” says Lina. “I underestimated the role of comedians and comedies that really help people just pull through. I wish it was possible to share more of the hilarious moments we had that helped us survive and bond. It was key to stay sane.”
The film tells the emotional journey of a group of friends — journalists and protesters — whose resilience is tested. And although it’s clear they didn’t expect this nightmare to last as long as it does, by the film’s ending in 2015, audiences see Lina and her companions on a harrowing journey to make it out of the country in one piece.