DStv highlights: Festival favourites on Witness on Al Jazeera

In November, Witness has a bumper lineup of acclaimed documentaries fresh off the international film festival circuit. These include Syria-set The Father, The Son and the Jihad, which screened at Hot Docs and IDFA; Piano: Ukraine’s Uprising, which won Best Documentary at Mediawave and a Special Mention at the Krakow Film Festival; and Rio-set In The Shadow of the Hill, which won the Australian documentary competition at the Sydney Film Festival.

The Father, The Son and The Jihad

The Father, The Son and The Jihad is the unique story of the Ayachis, a French-Syrian Muslim family who trade their peaceful lives in Europe for revolution in Syria.

The Ayachis are no ordinary ‘Jihadists;’ their path and ideas couldn’t be further from the clichés. The father, exiled to France in the 70s, is a descendant from an old and prestigious family of the Syrian Sunni aristocracy. His family was hailed as a model of Muslim integration in France in the 80s, notably in a televised documentary.

The first hour of this two-part special follows the story of the son, who was a brilliant university student and established a small computer business. He then became a famous warlord in Syria fighting against Assad and ISIL. The second hour of this two-part special follows the father’s return to Syria to continue his son’s work.

As POV Magazine wrote after its North American premiere at Hot Docs earlier this year, this documentary is “perilous and action-packed, taking the viewer deep inside the militant Islamist world and its complexities…. This two-hour epic has got it all: fascinating characters, narrative turns that knock your socks off, vivid cinematography, fluid editing rhythms, and a throbbing middle-eastern inflected score. The doc pulls you in right off the top and never lets go until its poignant finale.”

Part one premieres on 9 November 2016 at 2000GMT / 2100 WAT / 2200 CAT / 2300 EAT, with part two premiering a week later on 16 November 2016. The Father, The Son and the Jihad will be available to stream from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/ after the first episode airs.

Watch and embed the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPqYXTxTV9o.witness-father-son-and-jihad_

Piano: Ukraine’s Uprising  

They put a piano in the middle of the Maidan Square protests. You won’t believe what happened next…

During the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in 2014, an old blue and yellow piano was rescued from just becoming part of the barricades.  Perched on top of a burnt out truck, it soon became a focal point in the midst of violent demonstrations against the pro-Russian government.

Music student, Antuanetta Mishchenko, played the piano every day and night as a gesture of peace and defiance against police aggression. As the crowds grew in Maidan Square, a host of protesters joined Antuanetta and played the piano.  Their music provided a backdrop to the revolution and a welcome reminder of the freedom for which they were fighting.

Piano: Ukraine’s Uprising won Best Documentary at Mediawave and a Special Mention at the Krakow Film Festival for its “poetic and original view of the Ukrainian revolution.” The documentary premieres on 20 November at 2230 GMT/2330 WAT, with a repeat screening on 23 November 2016 at 1830 CAT/1930 EAT.   Piano: Ukraine’s Uprising will be available to stream fromhttp://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/ after it airs.

Watch and embed the trailer: https://vimeo.com/140033641.witness-piano-ukraines-uprising-web

In the Shadow of the Hill   

In November 2011 military police took control of the Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, Rocinha, forcing out armed gangs of drug traffickers without a single shot fired, in a government initiative to ‘pacify’ the slums. Shortly afterwards, reports began to emerge of widespread police abuse, which culminated in the disappearance of local bricklayer Amarildo de Souza. He was last seen being taken into the police station for questioning but never came home. His family believed that he had been tortured and murdered by the police, with impunity, like many other innocent civilians in the city. In the face of brutal oppression, local residents started a protest movement, ‘Where is Amarildo?’ that shook the Brazilian establishment to the core.

Variety wrote, “This resonant social-justice documentary exposes failed efforts to forcefully clean up Rio de Janeiro’s largest slum…. There is a tangible intimacy to the film… as the poor but proud participants stake a rousing claim for equality as a pushback to the criminalization of their poverty.”

In The Shadow of the Hill won the Australian documentary competition at the Sydney Film Festival, screened at HotDocs and AFI Docs, and is currently nominated for five Australian Academy Awards, among other prizes. The documentary will have its world premiere broadcast on 30 November 2016 at 2000GMT/2100WAT/2200CAT/2300EAT. In The Shadow of the Hill will be available to stream from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/ after it airs.

Watch and embed the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVSWFqaRhnk.witness-in-the-shadowofthehill_6

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