How to make a film about such a carceral system and about the rawest of emotions, such as fear, terror, hate, disgust, shame, pain, weakness, helplessness, boredom, resistance, hope and strength? The answer came from them, the survivors themselves. In Tadmor, they guided us and we followed.
In an extraordinary endeavor of collaboration and trust, built on a years-long and enduring relationship, the men were ready to confront—together—their common past.
Words alone could not describe the cruelty of their detention. Words alone could not exorcise that horrendous past. Ultimately, the men chose to reenact it. They wanted to relive it.
Together, we searched for a place they could use to rebuild their isolation and collective cells. Together, we created the scenes they would reenact. Together, we prepared each phase in the filming.
In Tadmor, twenty-two men recall their individual and collective stories of torture and survival. They speak for themselves, but also for those who are still trying to survive the same systematic torture and humiliation.
Amidst the popular uprising against the Syrian regime that began in 2011, a group of former Lebanese detainees decides to break their long-held silence about the horrific years they spent imprisoned in Tadmor (Palmyra), one of the Assad regime's most dreadful prisons.
They decide to testify publicly about the systematic torture and humiliation they experienced. To reclaim and overcome this dark chapter in their lives, they rebuild Tadmor in an abandoned school near Beirut.
By playing the role of both "victim" and "victimizer," they will relive their survival.
When I was in Tadmor Prison, I thought my life had ended… Fear, sickness, defeat… Humiliation upon humiliation upon humiliation… Words cannot describe the brutality I experienced… Life had passed me by… But we returned from hell… Freedom is as precious as the soul… To the prisoners who are still suffering: May God get you out of there…
These were the words we heard in 2012, when we started our research for the film Tadmor. These were the words used to describe Tadmor Prison by a group of men who survived its horrors. Tadmor had just one purpose: the complete physical and psychological destruction of its inmates.
Ali. Saad. Moussa. Raymond. Moustafa. Rashid. Elias. Camille. Marwan. Jamal. Jamil. Yahya. Darwish. Ali. Jalal. Saeb. Houssein. Mohammad. Fouad. Ibrahim. Mahmoud. Ali. Sons, husbands, friends, fathers, lovers, all of them had rich lives before their arbitrary incarceration in Assad’s Syrian prisons. All of them survived. Thousands of others did not…