Mohammad Malas

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Mohammad Malas
محمد ملص
Mohammad Malas, Sayada, September 2015 (cropped).jpg
Born1945 (age 76–77)
Years active1970–
AwardsCarthage Film Festival – Tanit d'Or
1984 Ahlam al-Madina
Berlin International Film Festival – Interfilm Award – Honorable Mention
1985 Ahlam al-Madina
Carthage Film Festival – Tanit d'Or
1992 al-Lail
Fribourg International Film Festival – Distribution Help Award
1993 al-Lail
Marrakech International Film Festival – Special Jury Award
2005 Bab al-Makam

Mohammad Malas (Arabic: محمد ملص) (born 1945) is a prominent Syrian filmmaker. Malas directed several documentary and feature films that garnered international recognition. He is among the first auteur filmmakers in Syrian cinema.[1]

Early life[edit]

Malas was born in Quneitra on the Golan Heights.[2] He worked as a school teacher between 1965 and 1968 before moving to Moscow to study filmmaking at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). During his time at VGIK Malas directed several short films. After his return to Syria he started working at the Syrian Television.[1] There he produced several short films including Quneitra 74, in 1974 and al-Zhakira ("The Memory") in 1977.[3] Along with Omar Amiralay he co-founded the Damascus Cinema Club.[1]

Filmmaking career[edit]

Between 1980–81 Malas shot a documentary film, al-Manam ("The Dream"), about the Palestinians living in the refugee camps in Lebanon during the civil war.[4] The film was composed of interviews with the refugees in which he asked them about their dreams. Filming took place between the Sabra, Shatila, Bourj el-Barajneh, Ain al-Hilweh and Rashidieh refugee camps. During filming Malas lived in the camps and conducted interviews with more than 400 people.[4] However, the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, which claimed the lives of several people he interviewed, shocked Malas and he stopped working on the project.[5] He finally returned to it after five years,[1] and the film was released in 1987. Al-Manam won first prize at the 1987 Cannes International Audio Visual Festival (FIPA) but was not widely distributed.[5]

Malas directed his first feature film, Ahlam al-Madina ("Dreams of the City"), in 1983. The autobiographical coming-of-age film was co-written with Samir Zikra[1] and received first prize at the Valencia and Carthage film festivals.[6] In 1990 Malas shot Nur wa Zilal ("Chiaroscuro"), a documentary film about Nazih Shahbandar whom he described as "Syria's first filmmaker."[5] The film was banned by Syrian authorities and was only allowed to be screened once in 1993 at the American Cultural Center in Damascus.[7]

Malas's second feature film, al-Lail ("The Night"), was realized in 1992. The autobiographical film was set in Quneitra in the years between 1936 and the Arab–Israeli War of 1948. It forms, along with Ahlam al-Madina, the first and second parts of an unfinished trilogy project of Malas's.[8] Al-Lail received international recognition and won first prize at the 1992 Carthage Film Festival. However, the film was banned in Syria and was only screened for the first time in 1996.[6] Malas also collaborated with Omar Amiralay on the 1996 documentary film, Moudaress, about the Syrian pioneer painter Fateh Moudarres. Bab al-Makam ("Passion"), released in 2005, was Malas's third feature film.[9]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Ginsberg; Lippard, 2010, p. 264.
  2. ^ "Biography". mecfilm. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  3. ^ "MOHAMMAD MALAS (SYRIA)". Dancing on the Edge Festival. 2011. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b Cooke, 2007, p. 116.
  5. ^ a b c Cooke, 2007, p. 117.
  6. ^ a b Wedeen, 1999, p. 203.
  7. ^ Cooke, 2007, p. 118.
  8. ^ Armes, 2010, p. 12.
  9. ^ Ginsberg; Lippard, 2010, p. 265.


  • Ginsberg, Terri; Lippard, Chris (2010). Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Cinema. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810860902.
  • Cooke, Miriam (2007). Dissident Syria: Making Oppositional Arts Official. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822340164.
  • Wedeen, Lisa (1999). Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226877877.
  • Armes, Roy (2010). Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East: A Dictionary. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253355188.

External links[edit]