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Directed by Eduardo Vieitez  | Review by Helen Wheels

[dropcap]Eduardo[/dropcap] Vieitez’s, MAMA, puts a face to the fact that refugees are all individual people who lost their homes and families, many are children who are now alone. Mama is the true story of a young girl, Rabah, who lost her entire family when a bomb destroyed her home in Aleppo, Syria. Vieitez begins by showing us snapshots of Rabah’s life; small enchanted moments of childhood memory blending one into the other. The young girl lies on the floor making a colored-pencil drawing of her happy family. She sits in her room as her mother combs her hair;in another moment we are celebrating her birthday.

Vieitez lulls the audience into a life that once was, only to be horrified when the world is ripped apart by a bomb. We are in the house with Rabah and her family when it happens.The explosion pushes forcibly through the hallways, leaving devastation in its wake. Rabah is left in shock, standing in a smoke-filled pile of rubble.

In his director’s statement, Vieitez says that he aims to overwhelm us with a first-person experience.He gives us a raw story; a sense of the trauma a refugee experiences when they go from an everyday life filled with happiness and family, to “the bloodiest hell on the earth.”

Vieitez skillfully recreates the blast from the bomb as it rushes through the house. It creates a vacuum, at first slow motion, the editing becomes rapid-fire, mimicking the chaos such an explosion would cause. In an instant, stasis is gone and replaced with the horrors of war. Rabah is shell-shocked, traumatized by the sudden dramatic change in her world. She is confused. She can’t find her mother. We fear for this terrified child, who is in danger of being killed at any moment.

Rabah wanders the war-torn streets,desperately calling out, “mama, mama.”This the only dialogue in the film. The audience shares a sense of detachment with the child, as Rahman Altin’s hypnotic original score drifts throughout the film, at times mixing with the diegetic sound of unseen aircraft, at others blending into rolling thunder.

The sounds of war, people running through the streets, and military vehicles, are all muffled as if the strike of the bomb has done something to our hearing. We can empathize with Rabah’s paralyzing terror. Still, she pushes on, surrounded by chaos, periodically calling “mama.” Her small voice in the midst of the destruction is a reminder that the victims of war are often the children who are left alone to fend for themselves. It is a terrible human tragedy.

Vieitez accomplishes his quest to create a documentary-style account of the horrors of war. By the time we follow the refugees to the town of Kilis, Turkey, we are relieved to find out that they are welcomed here. Vieitez says he made this film, in part, as a tribute to the municipality of Kilis and its citizens, which in an extreme act of humanity. This act allowed more refugees into their city, this beagn increasing their current population. Vieitez says, and I agree, that the rest of the world should take note and act with the same compassion toward refugees.


Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications.  Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.


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