Duraid Lahham speaks about art, politics and religion

In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Syrian actor Duraid Lahham said he is preparing for a new series on the Syrian crisis called “Ahla Alam” (The Most Beautiful World) to be screened next Ramadan.

Lahham also spoke about his thoughts on the Syrian crisis, saying the reason for the Syrian crisis is there are many parties involved and there is a systematic plan to destroy the country and its heritage.

He also said that, despite the ongoing conflict, the cinema has not stopped in Damascus. “We are filming under the sound of guns and bombs,” he said. “It has become a usual thing.”
Lahham added that he has good relationships with artists affiliated with the opposition and that he does not oppose working with them. However, he said he refuses to participate in productions funded by Gulf money.
Q: How does your new series tackle the events in Damascus?
A: It is a documentation of the events. This is all we can do at this stage because delving into the reasons behind the events requires that we wait for some time after they end for facts to unfold.
Q: What about the community dealing with the conflict?
A: Our message is one of peace and tolerance. In one of the scenes from the TV series, for example, an officer allows a girl to attend her mother’s funeral even though she was against the regime. In Syria we have a dedicated ministry for reconciliation and ​​tolerance.
Q: How does the series tackle the ​​religious conflict?
A: It talks about the sectarian strife of 1860 in Mount Lebanon between the Christians and the Druze. The conflict was instigated by the Ottoman governor and the series shows how it moved Damascus, where everybody, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, stood against it to prove that the only sect for all is the homeland.
Q: Does this mean the sectarian conflict we see today has historical roots?
A: By all means.
Q: Are you also directing the new series or just acting in it?
A: Just acting.
Q: What is the series about?
A: Like Don Quixote who fights windmills and never reaches the end.
Q: Will you make a new movie?
A: I have an idea for a film similar to my film “The Border” that I made in 1984.
Q: How come there were 30 TV series last Ramadan admist the ongoing conflict?
A: Because the fighting has become an ordinary thing.
Q: How can the crisis be resolved?
A: When the funding is cut and when foreigners stop fighting in our land. Why are there Afghans fighting here? Who are they fighting? Guevara? Leave us Syrians to solve our own problem in whichever way we deem correct.
Q: Would you do a Gulf production?
A: No way. I refuse to participate in productions funded by Gulf money.
Q: What do you think of others who do?
A: As long as the work does not contain poison, it is their prerogative.
Q: Which Syrian dramas were your favorites? 
A: “Al-Hakaeb” (The Luggage) and “Al-Haraer” (The Liberal).
Q: How do you see the Arab Spring now?
A: It began with legitimate demands for freedom and social justice. Then the Western powers that want to tear the Arab world apart took advantage of the situation and derailed it.
Q: Will the Arabs smile again?
A: This is what we need most today. That is why I liked “Al-Hakaeb” because it tackles the crisis in a satirical way.
Q: Would you cooperate with Syrian artists who differ with you politically?
A: Yes.
Q: Where does the Syrian artistic movement stand today?
A: It is going well, despite the crisis.
Q: And where do you stand?
A: I am selective, because I do not want to jeopardize my history.
Q: Why did you abandon political theater?
A: I did not. The last play I did was four years ago.
Q: Why have you not done acting or work in the Egyptian dialect?
A: Because the Egyptian dialect is best spoken by the Egyptians themselves.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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