Sand and Blood, 2018
Directed by Matthias Krepp and Angelika Spang
Using anonymous testimonies from refugees who’ve fled to Austria, Sand and Blood tells the personal tales that have emerged from the Iraq and Syria conflicts, all supported by amateur footage and archive from the very heart of these their wartorn paradise.
When it comes to rolling news stories from decades of conflict, so often it’s the personal that is lost as a side effect of becoming desensitised to rushes of fighting and destruction. With Sand and Blood, documentary filmmakers Matthias Krepp and Angelika Spang provide a platform for some of the displaced voices to tell their stories about places they once called “paradise”, and much like last year’s stunning City of Ghosts, this is essential viewing.
Broken into a series of chapters that chart Saddam’s downfall to The Path of the Jihad, Sand and Blood is a film that adds power to imagery we’ve somehow become able to turn away from, by underpinning it with soundbites like “I was a normal person, and then suddenly became a murderer”. In fact, sometimes it struggles to find a balance between the impact of the interviews, and the archive footage. There’s a sequence in which a man is being repeatedly slapped by a soldier, and it’s a harrowing watch, but as this is going on a refugee is telling a completely unrelated story about how he was tortured with a power cable. It’s a conflict of two brutal accounts.
More successful are the moments in which the documentary allows the archive to compliment the voiceover, such as the tale of a soldier from the Assad regime who decided to create dialogue with his ‘enemies’, only to be shot by his government as a consequence. Seeing this man risk his life by doing something that we all hope we had the bravery to do, a thing so intrinsically human, only to be punished for it, will stick with you long after the credits roll.
There are so many human recollections that embellish footage we think we’ve seen countless times before, with the sight of a young girl admonishing ISIS as destroyers, pleading for them to leave, as palpably painful to watch as anything else on display. Or the way in which the journey to martyrdom is captured from start to finish.
Obviously it’s a difficult watch, but that’s the point, and we owe it to these people to listen to their stories rather than let them become lost amongst the rubble and YouTube search history.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★
Sand and Blood will screen at the East London Film Festival on 21st April.