Documentary about YPJ in Syria’s Manbij awarded in Germany

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – The documentary of The Other Side of the River, which was filmed in the city of Manbij, north Syria, in 2016, received 12 awards in Europe, as it was awarded with an honorary German Film Award (Lola) in 2022.

The city of Manbij is located in the eastern countryside of Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria. It is 30 km from the Turkish border. It has a population of about 700 million.

Guevara Namer, a Syrian photographer and documentary filmmaker based in Berlin, who is a production manager and director of the documentary, said that the film discusses women freedom in general and the concept of the individual freedom in northeast Syria in particular.

The film portrays experiences of several characters including Halal and her sister Sawsan in addition to other Arabic and Kurdish women, Namer added.

Hala is a 19-year-old Arab woman from Manbij, which is run by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), who after the liberation of her home city from ISIS decided to join the liberating forces (Syrian Democratic Forces) and become a member in The Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).

The YPJ is a female military force includes women from several ethnic groups in north and east Syria affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The SDF supported by the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS liberated Manbij from ISIS in 2016 following fierce battles.

The AANES was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the SDF defeated ISIS militarily there. 

Through the strength and dreams of this young woman Hala, the film portrays the customs and realities of this complicated region where, to define a place of her own, a woman must fight beyond the battlefield, in her own family and home, according to Modern Times Review, the European documentary magazine.

During the ceremony of winning the award.

Namer told North Press that the filming began in 2016, and it was filmed in two phases. The film was presented in several festivals and won 12 awards the most important of which is the Lola Award in 2022.

The Other Bank of the River, which was directed by Antonia Kilian, received the best documentary award in Germany for this year.

The film was presented in 16 German cities and 20 showrooms. It is scheduled to be presented on Netflix soon.

As areas in north and east Syria have gone through several battle experiences between ISIS and the SDF supported by the US-led Global Coalition, foreign writers, journalists and filmmakers are encouraged to this landscape searching for precious events and stories that should be brought up to the surface.   

In February 2021, The American author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon issued her book The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage and Justice about the role of the YPJ in facing off against the ISIS in Syria.

Reporting by Adnan Hamo