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Hot Docs 2014 Review: Red Lines

Certain types of documentaries – featuring hard-hitting, serious topical subjects, and focused on finding hard answers – are preferred by a certain niche of a festival audience. On its surface, Red Lines appears to be a preeminent example of this type of documentary. Red Lines is about the role of Syria within the Arab Spring uprising. While Tunisia, Egypt, and Tunisia were seen to stage successful uprisings, and deposing their leaders, the Civil War in Syria has so far been unsuccessful in deposing leader Bashar al-Assad, and his familial ruling party.

The difficulty for a film like Red Lines is to reach beyond the audience favouring hard-hitting documentaries, and appeal to common festivalgoers. While certain scenes are quite gripping, leading the audience to awe at the access given to co-directors Andrea Kalin and Oliver Lukacs, the production has a note of incompleteness to it, judging by how government officials for, the most part, have not helped solve the conflict in this region. Red Lines refers to the use of chemical weapons, which the film sadly informs that these Red Lines have been crossed.

What Red Lines offers beyond a traditional documentary, comprising the soul of the film, is the perspective of two young Syrian activists, Razan Shalab al-Sham, and Mouaz Moustafa. The access provided through these two freedom-fighters is, quite frankly, the most interesting part of Red Lines. Kalin and Lukacs are wise to take us through almost every step of the process alongside al-Sham and Moustafa, showing their dedication to bringing attention to the need for regime change, but also showing both of them in moments both triumphant, and especially, unguarded. Though the complex relationship between the two is somewhat underexplored, Red Lines is quick to show their differences, and how they have bridged the gap for a common cause.

While Kalin and Lukacs need to end Red Lines on this note of incompleteness, it is suggested that for Moustafa and for al-Sham, the battle continues to be fought.

[star v=3]