The ex-bastion of the Islamic State group in Syria hosts the shooting of the film by Jackie Chan – Film – Arts & Culture

Actors are pictured in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood of the Syrian capital Damascus on July 14, 2022, while filming a scene for a movie titled Home Operation, a Chinese-Emirati joint venture produced by actor Jackie Chan and inspired events from the emergency evacuation of Chinese and foreign nationals and diplomats to the outbreak of a civil war in Yemen in 2015. AFP

“Operation Home” is inspired by China’s 2015 evacuation of Chinese and foreign citizens from the war in Yemen, an operation that has been seen as a landmark for Beijing.

Yemen was deemed too dangerous to shoot and some scenes in the film, which is also backed by an Emirati production company, are shot in Syria, although the script only mentions a fictional country called “Poman”.

The ruins of Hajar al-Aswad filled Thursday with a ragtag cast of actors in Yemeni tribal attire, Syrian extras in uniform and members of the Chinese film crew in polo shirts.

Jackie Chan is the main producer, although there are no plans for him to travel to Syria.

The film presents itself as a blockbuster that will glorify the role of the Chinese authorities in a heroic evacuation.

Speaking to reporters as his team set up their equipment and their tanks in a hastily modified livery rolled into place, director Yinxi Song confirmed the film’s propaganda credentials.

“It takes the perspective of Communist Party diplomats, who braved a hail of bullets in a war-torn country and safely brought all Chinese compatriots back to the country’s warship,” he said. -he declares.

The Chinese ambassador, one of the few countries to have maintained good diplomatic relations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was present to launch the filming in Syria, which is expected to last several days.

A red banner in three languages ​​was unfurled for the small ceremony and another bearing the inscription “Peace & Love” was hung from the front of a float.

“cheap workshop”

Hajar al-Aswad, which means “black rock” in Arabic, was once a densely populated suburb of Damascus located next to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.

Both areas have become major flashpoints in the Syrian civil conflict that erupted in 2011 and were at least partially controlled at one point by the Islamic State group.

The recapture of the two neighborhoods by Syrian pro-government forces in May 2018 marked the moment when the regime brought the entire capital Damascus back under its control.

However, entire swaths of Hajar al-Aswad have been completely leveled, turning the neighborhood into a grim sprawl of gray, gutted buildings.

A few residents returned to the less damaged parts of Hajar al-Aswad, leaving the rest completely uninhabited.

“War-torn areas in Syria have turned into film studios. These areas are attracting film producers,” said director Rawad Shahin, who is part of Home Operation’s Syria team.

“Building similar studios in these areas is very expensive, so these areas are considered low-cost studios,” he said.

The production team says it plans to use several other locations to film in Syria, where Iranian and Russian productions, both allies of Assad, have also been filmed.

Syria is targeted by a series of international sanctions and is also littered with unexploded ordnance that last year made it the world’s deadliest country for landmines.

Chinese navy ships carrying out anti-piracy patrols were diverted to Yemen in 2015 to evacuate what officials at the time said were hundreds of people from 10 different countries stranded by the escalating conflict.

The successful operation was touted by Beijing at the time as a proud moment for its navy, proof of its humanitarian principles and growing global reach.

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