Nezouh (2022)

Nezouh by Soudade Kaadan is a teenage coming-of-age story of finding hope in devastated war-torn Syria.

The Last Family in Damascus

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

‘Nezouh’, an opening title explains, means ‘displacement of soul, water and people’. The film is Soudade Kaadan’s second feature, following 2018’s The Day I Lost My Shadow and a feature-length documentary.

Her intention is to show the awful devastation of Damascus but also to leave us with the possibility of hope. Nezouh is seen from the point of view of 14-year-old Zaina (excellent Hala Zein) and we see how she lives now.

Zaina lives with her parents, placatory Hala (Kinda Alloush) and bulky, patriarchal Motaz (Samir Almasri). In their vulnerable apartment, with metal shutters closed to protect themselves, they think they are the last family left in Damascus, before the army comes. Zaina and Hala want to leave but Motaz wants them all to stay, so they don’t feel they have a choice. With utilities cut off, they survive by Motaz scavenging food and building a generator (for which they don’t have the diesel).

When a missile bursts a hole in the ceiling and walls of the apartment, Motaz’s first thought is for his wife Hala to cover her hair in case she is seen by an outsider, and to fill the gaps in the walls with sheets. He is in denial about the damage.

But  trapped Zaina is now free to see the open sky and the stars through the hole in the ceiling. She is befriended by Amer, the boy across the street, whose family are still there and who is a technical whiz. Perhaps in this situation the two teenagers fall in love.

Together with Zaina’s mother, they try to escape and wander through the destroyed city. Zaina’s father meanwhile seems to have been driven mad by the war and the strain of trying to protect his family and keep them together. Zaina and her mother have to make difficult choices.

The grimness of the family’s daily existence is broken up episodes of magical realism – the sky turns into the sea and Zaina falls from the roof through the universe. In a moment of release, Zaina and her mother dance separately to pop music.

Do the family escape and stay together? Do women in a war zone finally rebel against the patriarchy? Anything is possible in Kaadan’s film. Jonathan Romney’s review for Sight and Sound is perceptive and comprehensive. The link is below.

Nezouh: a dreamy picture of life under siegeThis gentle film by Soudade Kaadan suggests that accounts of life during wartime in Syria can be about matters other than death – namely hope, love, teenage reverie, and the comedy of family life. 11 October 2022By Jonathan RomneySight and Sound

Interview with the director


Nezhouh premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Armani Audience Award and Lanterna Magica Award. It was the winner of the Amnesty International Human Rights Award at Rome Med Film Fest and had a Special Mention, Cannes Cinéphiles. It was in Competition at the BFI London Film Festival 2022 and is released on 3 May 2024 in the UK and Ireland.

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