7 Days in Syria – 2015 Feature Film Workshop
Newsweek Middle East editor, Janine di Giovanni, submitted a proposal to cover the war in Syria. The magazine denied the request, deeming the situation too dangerous. She decided to go anyway.
The conditions are extreme with constant shelling and bombardment, threat of sniper fire, and kidnappings. Only two weeks before the trip her friend, James Foley, was taken by three armed men and later executed. A few weeks after the trip, Steven Sotloff, who Janine speaks with while in Aleppo, is also captured and killed.
Journalists are targets, and that much Janine knows. Yet, she and her crew put themselves in harm’s way to bear witness and make sure the world knows about the suffering of the Syrianpeople.
Along the way Janine meets a carpenter-turned-baker, a man considered to be a hero of Aleppo. His life is threatened daily by opposition forces, but he still makes bread to keep his neighbors alive. Then there’s Waad, a Syrian teenager who was studying economics until the university was bombed. She videos injuries and deaths of soldiers and civilians, a very important task for posterity and war tribunals.
We meet the young doctors who work tirelessly at an understaffed hospital, a construction worker turned gravedigger, and a young girl, the future of Syria, almost killed by a mortar that goes off while she sings at the marketplace.
7 Days in Syria is a documentary feature unlike any other, offering a rare glimpse at life during war and the incredible lengths journalists go to shine a light in the darkest places on earth.
Janine di Giovanni, Middle East Editor of Newsweek and contributing editor of Vanity Fair, is one of Europe’s most respected and experienced reporters, with vast experience covering war and conflict. Her reporting has been called “established, accomplished brilliance” and she has been cited as “the finest foreign correspondent of our generation”.
She recently became an Ochberg Fellow at Columbia University in recognition of her work on violence and war and the trauma it brings to society, and has been named as one of the 100 most influential people reducing armed conflict by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). She is also an Associate Fellow at the Geneva Center for Policy Studies. Her themes are conflict, stability, transitional justice and security.
Her work is widely anthologised and in 2014 her article from Harper’s Magazine, “Life during Wartime”, was chosen by the writer Paul Theroux as one of the essays included in The Best American Travel Writing.
Born in the US, she began reporting by covering the first Palestinian intifada and went on to report nearly every violent conflict since then. Her trademark has always been to write about the human cost of war, to attempt to give war a human face, and to work in conflict zones that the world’s press has forgotten.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, Di Giovanni has mainly been focused in the Middle East, a region she has been working in for two decades. She travels extensively to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria to do field work and research. Her concentration has been on the war in Syria, and her new book, Seven Days in the Life of Syria, will be published next spring by W.W. Norton as well as Bloomsbury in the UK. A documentary will also be released about her investigative work inside Syria.
She recently published a groundbreaking investigation into the funding of the Islamic State, which was a cover story forNewsweek.
She has consulted with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Syrian refugee crisis, writing a major advocacy report on the future of women refugees in July 2014, and was part of a team that wrote a report on the future of Syria’s refugee children.
She has written reports for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Internews on the communication gap for Syrian refugees. In 2013, she was a Senior Policy Fellow at The Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery at Central European University, focusing on giving Syrian refugees a political voice post-war in Aleppo, Syria.
She has done three long investigations into Syrian human rights violations, including rape and torture. She has received grants from The Nation Institute for this work, and her long format pieces were published in Granta, the New York Times,Vanity Fair and Newsweek.
Di Giovanni writes mainly on human rights and war crimes. The genesis of this was her reporting of the war in Bosnia, and she continued writing about Bosnia long after most people had forgotten the conflict there.
In 2000, she was one of the few foreign reporters to witness the fall of Grozny, Chechnya, and her depictions of the terror after the fall of city won her several major awards. She has campaigned for stories from Africa to be given better coverage, and she has worked in Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Benin, Burkino Faso, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Liberia, as well as Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, East Timor, Chechnya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and many other countries.
During the war in Kosovo, Di Giovanni travelled with the Kosovo Liberation Army into occupied Kosovo and sustained a bombing raid on her unit that left many soldiers dead. Her article on that incident, and many of her other experiences during the Balkan Wars, “Madness Visible”, for Vanity Fair (June 1999), won the National Magazine Award. It was later expanded into a book for Knopf/Bloomsbury, and has been called “one of the best books ever written about war”.
Di Giovanni has written several books: Ghosts by Daylight: A Memoir of War and Love (Bloomsbury/Knopf 2011); The Place at the End of the World: Essays from the Edge (Bloomsbury 2006); Against the Stranger (Viking/Penguin 1993), about the effect of occupations during the first intifada on both Palestinians and Israelis; The Quick and The Dead, about the siege of Sarajevo, and the introduction to the best-selling Zlata’s Diary, about a child growing up in Sarajevo. Her works have been anthologized widely, including in The Best American Magazine Writing 2000.
She has won four major awards, including the National Magazine Award, one of America’s most prestigious prizes in journalism. She has won two Amnesty International Awards for Sierra Leone and Bosnia. And she has won Britain’s Grenada Television What the Papers Say Foreign Correspondent of the Year award for her work in Chechnya. She also won Spear’s Memoir of the Year in 2012 for Ghosts by Daylight.
She is one of the journalists featured in a documentary about women war reporters, Bearing Witness, a film by three-time Academy Award winning director Barbara Kopple, which was shown at the Tribeca film festival and on the A&E network in May 2005.
In 1993, she was the subject of another documentary about women war reporters, No Man’s Land, which followed her working in Sarajevo. She has also made two long format documentaries for the BBC. In 2000, she returned to Bosnia to makeLessons from History, a report on five years of peace after the Dayton Accords. The following year she went to Jamaica to report on a little-known but tragic story of police assassinations of civilians, Dead Men Tell No Tales. Both films were critically acclaimed.
Robert is a director/producer of documentaries and feature films that look to make a positive impact in the world through entertainment. He has made over four dozen documentaries, features, music videos, and short films that have reached millions of viewers worldwide.
Robert has studied under directing teacher Judith Weston, at UCLA Film School, and he received a B.A. in philosophy from UC, Berkeley where he was awarded the Eisner Prize. It is the ‘highest award for creativity given on the UC, Berkeley campus.’ In 2005 at age 16, Robert made his first feature film, “The Hoodwink.” Robert was the 2012 recipient of the Dan Eldon Activist Award. He writes periodically for the Huffington Post, published a novel in 2014 called “Escape To Anywhere Else,” with a foreword by Mariel Hemingway, and co-founded and is acting editor of the magazine, Cinema of Change.