Vancouver International Film Festival 2019 “We Are Not Princesses” – a review

Vancouver International Film Festival 2019

“We Are Not Princesses”

What becomes of women who are forced to flee their homes with their families when their country is torn apart by war? “We Are Not Princesses”, an NFB documentary dedicated “to all displaced persons”, offers an unflinching opportunity to see into the lives of a group of women from Syria who find themselves “at the bottom of the refugee ladder” in Beirut, Lebanon.

The women meet one another when they join a theatre workshop created for Syrian refugees and are prepare to act in the ancient Greek play, “Antigone”.   In the play, Antigone, a princess, disobeys her father, King Creon, and is sentenced to death for her action. Many of the 32 women who will be part of the production are hidden from the camera, but four are able to participate fully in the documentary experience.

They talk non-stop, telling their stories for the first time, discussing Antigone’s decisions and making tentative plans for their own futures. Although all wish they could return home to Syria, some of the changes they are experiencing are very liberating for them. “In Syria”, one of the women said, “you had to accept what the men wanted, but now, a woman will stay for love.”

In exile, another woman noted, “We are stronger because we have lost so much.” They are considering personal goals and grieving for dead sons as they begin to look ahead. Their living quarters are dilapidated slums which look uninhabitable, but the women work hard to provide homes for their families. However, the resilience and strength these refugees are developing as they tell their stories are truly inspiring. “We are not princesses”, they observe. “No one knows us nor would say anything if we died.” This beautifully constructed documentary will help to change that.

“We Are Not Princesses” will air:

Wednesday, Oct. 2               6:15 pm           SFU Goldcorp Centre            149 W. Hastings

Friday, Oct. 4                        11:00 am          Cineplex- Int. Village – 9      88 W. Pender

Review by Judy Robb

Feature image courtesy of VIFF and NFB.


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