Diaries of a Little Dictator: Syrian artists puppet the regime

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Even finger puppet shows can be revolutionary. Or at least they can be satirical.

Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator – also called Massasit Matti in Arabic after a popular drink in Syria– is a finger puppet series consisting of 13 videos posted on YouTube that mocks well-known figures of the Syrian regime.

“The work of the group is important because they destroy the cult of personality under which Syrians lived for more than 40 years”, says a Syrian filmmaker who asked not to be identified by name.

By tapping into the dark humor found among many Syrians, it manages to make people smile during increasingly bloody times. The first episode features the president–known as “Beeshu” instead of Bashar–waking up after having a nightmare of mass demonstrations. “Why don’t the Syrian people love me anymore? Why do they want to bring down the regime?” cries the forlorn president.

In another episode President Beeshu appears on a mock episode of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” called “Who Wants to Kill a Million?  The episode parodies an isolated president making decisions with only his own interests in mind. When he is unable to answer one of the questions, and asks to call a friend, the presenter responds : “You still have friends?”

“We now have new characters, new puppets, like a defected soldier”, says Jamil, the director of the project who asked not to be identified by his full name. “The scenes that we are writing now are more tragic. I think we lost a sense of the humor that we had in the first series. The tragic element is greater. At least six scenes end with the death of the main character.”

 When it appeared last summer it was extremely popular among Syrians activists and opposition members, but the group of Syrian artists are having trouble funding the project.

 ”I feel like there is a lot of interest in Syrian art and art production but this doesn’t really translate into financing it,” Jamil says. “The first season was easier to produce because most of the preparation was done inside the country. Artist friends helped, often for free. Now we are struggling.”

 The group is fundraising through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. They have only a couple of weeks to raise the money needed, otherwise they will receive nothing, according to the rules of Kickstarter.

 The group believes their work is needed even more now. For them, creative expression provides an alternative to the violent voices arising from the conflict.

 “The problem now is that things in Syria are more complicated”, Jamil says. “We have weapons; we have people using hate-speech and sectarian rhetoric.”

Source: Arte

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