Since 2014, photographer Issa Touma travels back to his hometown Aleppo on a regular basis. For more than two years he captured everyday encounters with fellow citizens of Aleppo, a city torn apart by war.

Touma returns to clear an unexploded bomb from his parents’ apartment and to visit artist friends whose works he is collecting for an upcoming exhibition in Singapore. Getting to Aleppo is getting harder every day: at first, he travels by bus from Beirut. The buses are making all kind of detours through the desert to avoid the front lines. When the buses stopped running because of sniper fire, he travelled by car, usually in a convoy.

Greetings from Aleppo is an homage to the resilience of the people who try – sometimes to an absurd level – to continue to live the lives they led before the war. From car lovers who drive their polished classic cars through the devastated streets, to the girls who giggle about the way media report about the situation in their city.

Authors

Issa Touma is a photographer and curator based in Aleppo (Syria). His photographic work can be found in international collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Finding himself isolated from the international art community in his own country, Touma established the Black and White Gallery, the first photography gallery in the Middle East, in 1992. After its closure in 1996, Touma founded Le Pont, an independent art organisation and gallery that promotes freedom of expression and stimulates the local art scene through international events.

In 1997, he started the International Photography Festival Aleppo, which despite the horrors and uncertainties of the conflict, continues to take place every year. In 2012, shortly after the war broke out, he initiated Art Camping. This event in the form of workshops counters violence with artistic interventions. Its aim is to bring young people from various religious and ethnic backgrounds together, encouraging them to express themselves through culture.

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Floor van der Meulen (b. 1989) studied at various arts academies in Rotterdam and NYC. Consequently, she directed Paradijsbestormers, a documentary portrait of Dutch-Syrian fighters in a complex conflict, which was broadcasted by Al-Jazeera Arabic.

Van der Meulen collaborated with Thomas Vroege and Syrian photographer Issa Touma on the short film 9 Days - From My Window in Aleppo, that has been screened and awarded all over the world.

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Thomas Vroege (b. 1988, Rotterdam) is a filmmaker based in Amsterdam. Vroege graduated in audiovisual design at AKV | St. Joost in Breda with the short documentary The Son and The Stranger. This film won a WILDCARD of Dutch Film Fund and was broadcast by VPRO. His experimental debut film debut So Help Me God, a visual journey through the world of finance, was screened in the Goudenkalf- and Debut Competition at the Dutch Film Festival.

His most recent film 9 Days - From My Window In Aleppo, about the start of the Syrian uprising in the city of Aleppo, was screened at leading international festivals such as DOK Leipzig, Clermont-Ferrand and IFFR. His film plan Theater Of The Crowd was awarded with the IDFA Media Fund Documentary prize in 2015.

As an editor, Vroege worked a.o. with photographer Ad Nuis on Oil & Paradise, a multimedia installation as a road trip in which Nuis ironically examines the newly acquired wealth of the former Soviet state Azerbaijan. It was shown on Photo Festival Naarden, Dutch Photo Museum and the International Photography Biennial Beijing. His style as editor is characterized by a strong team player and ability to create.

Besides, in collaboration with Mark Jan van Tellingen, Vroege develops PARANOIA.WATCH, an index / smart watch app that attempts to measure the impact of terrorism on society. Since 2012 Vroege is an advisor to the Dutch Cultural Media Fund. In 2013 he was advisor to the documentary committee for the Dutch Film Festival.

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Still from Greetings from Aleppo
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
© Issa Touma
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
© Issa Touma
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
© Issa Touma
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
© Issa Touma
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
Still from Greetings from Aleppo
© Issa Touma

Film

To realize the documentary, Touma worked together with the Dutch film makers Thomas Vroege and Floor van der Meulen. It’s the second time the three worked together: in 2015 they made the short film 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo, which has been shown on more than 60 film festivals worldwide and won an European Film Award for Best Short Film in 2016.

The film had its world première at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. An adapted version of Greetings from Aleppo will tour international film festivals (distribution: Some Shorts – Wouter Jansen).

  • 25.01.201705.02.2017International Film Festival Rotterdam (NL)

  • Video: 16’36” min, HD (1920×1080) digital movie with stereo sound, Arabic (and some Armenian) spoken, subtitles in English / Dutch

  • Issa Touma (Camera and story)
    Thomas Vroege (Montage & script)
    Floor van der Meulen (Montage & script)
    Tom Jansen (Sound design)
    Darius Timmer (Music)
    Susan Osman (Translation)
    Jos de Putter (Producer - DeepFocus WebDocs)
    Bas Vroege (Producer - Paradox)

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