Arwad is the name of the small island off the Syrian coast where Ali (Ramzi Choukair) grew up. He emigrated to Montreal, married Gabrielle (Julie McClemens), fathered two daughters, then fell in love with Marie (Fanny Mallette). When his mother dies, Ali is drawn back to his birthplace, accompanied by his mistress. Starting from this linear plotline, filmmakers Samer Najari and Dominique Chila composed a work in three movements that oscillates between past and present. The deconstructed narrative mirrors Ali’s struggle to define who he really is as he goes back to his roots in search of meaning. When it feels like your real life is somewhere else, where do you look? Arwad makes no mention of the ongoing conflict in Syria — the screenplay was completed before war broke out — and Ali’s
reasons for leaving his homeland are never quite made clear. Nonetheless, any departure from the childhood home inevitably augurs a reconciliation between origins and destination, past and present, hopes and disappointments. A film composed of shades of grey and marked by suppressed violence, Arwad meditates on the gap between fantasy and reality, so distant from one another, yet so close.