Set in the early years of the Syrian war, Valley of Exile chronicles the journey of Rima and Nour, two sisters who find unexpected refuge in a makeshift settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley after fleeing war-torn Damascus. Older sister Rima, who is eight months pregnant, is set on reuniting with her husband and rebuilding their lives in Lebanon, while younger sister Nour is determined to find their missing brother and eventually returns home to Syria. In the camp, the sisters forge alliances with other women who are similarly forced to live without the support of family they’ve lost to the war. This propels them onto separate paths. But as days in the camp turn to weeks, Rima and Nour begin to realize that their exile is not only a struggle for survival, but ultimately a test of loyalty to their country, their family and each other. Director Anna Fahr portrays the beauty that exists in humanity in even the hardest times. The strong female leads and matriarchal emphasis distinguish this movie from other films of this type.
Maria Hassan, Hala Hosni, Michel Hourani, Najwa Kondakji, Joy Hallak, Sajed Amer
In Arabic with English subtitles
War, Famine, Refugee Camps
Paul Scherzer, Aeschylus Poulos
Lara Abou Saifan, Anna Fahr
Anna Fahr, Wajdi Elian
Anna Fahr is an Iranian-Canadian-American filmmaker and founder of Morning Bird Pictures, a Toronto-based production company dedicated to creating films and new media that focus on the contemporary Middle East and diaspora. Her latest projects include the award-winning interactive web-docs, Migrant Mothers of Syria and My Life in Limbo. Her last dramatic short, Transit Game was shot in north Lebanon and screened in 50+ international festivals, winning prizes in Berlin, San Francisco and Florence. Anna’s first feature documentary, Khaneh Ma: These Places We Call Home, screened in international festivals and was theatrically released in Montreal. Valley of Exile is her debut narrative feature.
Filmography: Khaneh Ma: These Places We Call Home (2006)
Focus: Women, Life and Freedom
See more films in this series:
Seven Winters in Tehran
This compelling, urgent true crime documentary carefully lays out the story of 19-year-old Iranian architecture student Reyhaneh Jabbari, who, in 2007, stabbed a man in self-defence after he tried to rape her. Jabbari was arrested and sentenced to death.
Nine interlocking vignettes of everyday life offer a panoramic, politically charged view of state repression and bureaucracy in contemporary Tehran. Terrestrial Verses resonates strongly with the recent Woman, Life, Freedom protests.
Sierra Urich embarks on a personal quest to make sense of her mixed-race Iranian identity, interviewing her grandmother, Behjat, with her mother, Mitra, as translator. This delightful doc will make you laugh out loud and bring tears to your eyes.
Valley of Exile
Early in the Syrian war, two sisters escape to a refugee camp in Lebanon. Shot in an actual refugee settlement, this is a deeply felt exploration of family within the extremes of war, and a bold testament to the strength and resilience of refugee women.
After kindergarten boys and girls in Iran study separately, but at ages five and six they're only beginning to learn to navigate gender, and this is the theme of this beguiling film from Amir Toodehroosta.