Projekt Beschreibung

Rebuilding a country
with a constitution

Explainer Video IllustrationRebuilding a country with a constitution

A FOUR-VIDEO SERIES FOR EZKS SHOWS WHY IT´S IMPORTANT FOR THE PEACE PROCESS IN SYRIA

Ten years ago, peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations and uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad followed by heavy repression from the regime to crush the dissent plunged the country into a full-scale civil war. Which proper end is unfortunately not yet in sight.

Since its beginning, thousands of people lost their lives and are missing, millions found refugee in Europe and in the neighbouring countries and are internally displaced. Different actors and external powers got involved in the conflict, backing one or the other side, while the diplomatic door kept open.

To shed light on the complexity of this scenario and to explain possible ways out of this massive tragedy, rivers of ink have flowed. Reports, analysis, articles are thorough means of information at disposal of experts, insiders, academics and interested readers but were deemed by our client not to be enough to reach specific target groups among the broader public, especially the Syrian one. Our team gladly supported the European Center for Kurdish Studies (EZKS) in exploring key aspects of the peace process and in giving a sparkle of hope for a concrete and possible future grounded on a constitutional democracy, not a utopia. In a gritty and critical way, our short four-video series in English and Arabic presents reality for what it is, but most importantly is a call to action. To write together a new constitution, to see democracy as a behaviour, a long-term process that profits from diversity and not as a given and one-time recipe.

Watch the entire animated video explainer series

A New Constitution for Syria (EN) – Part 1

A New Constitution for Syria (EN) – Part 2

A New Constitution for Syria (EN) – Part 3

A New Constitution for Syria (EN) – Part 4

Since 1999 the European Center for Kurdish Studies – Berlin Society for the Advancement of Kurdish Studies (EZKS in German), a Berlin-based private research institute registered as non-profit association, promotes Kurdology and Kurdish Studies in both their places of origin and in the diaspora. With their activities, they’ve been instrumental in establishing civil-society projects in Syria since 2005. On the same month the UN Envoy for Syria restored talks in Geneva between the opposition and the Syrian government, in February 2016, EZKS began the project “One constitution for all Syrians” sponsored by the ifa with the support of the German Foreign Ministry – for whom by the way we produced the virtual exhibition No Women No Peace, and in 2020 also by the European Union via the Syrian peace initiative (SPI).

The aim of the project was and is to develop together with members of the Syrian opposition and Syrian civil society an approach to a decentralized and federal state which would enable a safe and peaceful coexistence of all different ethnic, linguistic and religious groups present on the Syrian territory, keeping intact its integrity. In numerous dialogue workshops held in Geneva, Erbil, Istanbul, Bucharest, Athens, Berlin, Malta and Sarajevo over hundred people have engaged with issues of constitutional law concerning the creation of a democratic Syria, such as, among others power-sharing, human, civil, minorities and women’s rights, right to cultural self-determination, self-administration, bicameral system, rule of law and social state. 

EZKS wished to explain this very complicated political process through a more accessible format and with an emotional language, making these messages viral on the Internet. Animation videos seemed to be the right answer to their needs, and for this reason, they approached us with this project. And we were pleased to accept this challenge!

This is how it went: story of a concept

Still in remote due to the Covid-19 situation, our team held together with EZKS a series of workshops to understand the core aspects of this project. As a start, we asked them and ourselves who are the target groups. The Syrian people, sure, but we wanted to know more details.

Together with them, we portrayed three Personas of different ages, with different interests and backgrounds and realized that for the project the

Still in remote due to the Covid-19 situation, our team held together with EZKS a series of workshops to understand the core aspects of this project. As a start, we asked them and ourselves who are the target groups. The Syrian people, sure, but we wanted to know more details.

Together with them, we portrayed three Personas of different ages, with different interests and backgrounds and realized that for the project the younger generations – between 20 and 40 – were the right ones to address. They are the “new” Syria, the one open to the future, smart, awake and yet connected to the culture of their country. What they share is a modern and fresh look at things, and at the same time a disillusionment towards politics. They are aware of what’s happening, and they prefer not to hear empty promises. Truth, authenticity and the strength to have big dreams is what we wanted to transmit. The overall message at the end is clear: a constitution is the only viable solution to build a new and just state, and this process, although complicated and difficult, is worth going as a joint effort between all parties involved, opposition and government.

With all this in mind we outlined a dramaturgy for the entire series and in the following three storytelling workshops we defined the specific content of each film. Direct opening and closing questions addressing a collective “we”, meant for the Syrian people, connect the stories and the viewers´ appetite in discovering the rest in the following episodes.

Concerning the voice-over artist, we decided to have an Arabic native speaker for the entire series recording also the English versions, to make the story more authentic and thus strengthening the identification in the target groups.

The first film takes stock of the actual situation in the country by looking closer at what happened seven years after the UN-Resolution 2254 passed in 2015. As the voice-over bitterly states at the very beginning, nothing has improved for the Syrian people. The document was the first instrument of international law to propose a direct solution to the Syrian issue, in contrast to previous United Nations resolutions which focused on certain aspects of the crisis such as humanitarian concerns or relief measures. Yet, every point of its content, such as for instance the institution of a transitional government, free and fair elections or the release of political prisoners, remained unfulfilled. But then the same voice affirms stubbornly that a constitution is something to still believe in. And to actively work on.

The following episode presents the role of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, the United Nations-facilitated constituent assembly meeting in Geneva formed by representatives from the opposition, the government and the civil society – 50 people per each group, 15 in its smaller composition. We see whose interests they do all represent, who’s backing them and how are the United Nations managing to make them sit all at the same table. The Committee and the Syrian people at large, face indeed a massive challenge, as portrayed in the third episode: the wiliness and readiness to overcome grief and anger, or the fear of retaliation to rebuild trust as the basis for a common effort in rewriting together a new constitution.

Finally, in the last episode of the series, the most abstract one, we try to answer another complex question: what is Syrian identity? What is that unite the Syrian people? Many aspects, since diversity in many fields, are the answer. And the acceptance of differences is the only way to come together again under the protection of a modern constitution based on shared power. A new start, for everyone. The right path to realizing big ideas!

About the style

The approach we followed was not confined only to the general concept, but was equally translated into the style we developed for the series. Here we had total freedom to experiment and come up with something modern, colorful and daring. 

We created an appealing aesthetic world making use of intense color fields mixed with textures, subtly reflecting the characteristic art of the Middle East with its complex patterns and geometric shapes when drawing architecture, backgrounds and crowd scenes. In this way, different levels of information convey the message through multidimensional storytelling. 

The character design played a fundamental role. We wanted to show the diversity of Syrian society respectfully and authentically, without dehumanizing them by turning them into cartoons. The viewers had to feel identified with the origin, situations, and most important with the emotions of our characters. Thus, we went for a more realistic character design while at the same time making them exist in a metaphorical world where layout, proportions and split screens are emphasized. All this with respect to cinematography and story, not just as a stylistic choice.

EKZS-Rebuilding a country with a constitution

Atmosphere and accent on details – the magic of sound

The music and the sound design enriched further the four little jewels. Since storytelling also happens at an audio level, we wanted to have something special for the series.

The digital world allows getting access to other cultures, to discover other perspectives and topics. Yet, we needed a first hint, a direction where to

look in this regard. The same way we did when developing the stories and the visual style, we gave big importance to a thorough research also on the sound level. We therefore interviewed a young Syrian woman living in Berlin, and she gladly opened us the doors of a fascinating world. She explained that people in the Middle East listen mostly to Arabic music and that the younger generations are particularly fond of hip hop, techno and pop, as well as of alternative rock, in particular of bands reinterpreting old classics or traditional music. We listened to the hip hop of Syrian Bu Kolthoum, we loved the music of Mashrou´ Leila and the animation for their single Radio Romance, and discovered iconic artists like Marcel KhalifeFairuzUmm Kulthum or Nancy Ajram. But there is of course much more out there and our sound designer dug deeper, especially in the scene of the Arab independent musicians, to develop his concept.

The idea was to combine different genres and musical worlds to come up with something modern, easy to listen and with a middle-eastern “taste”, avoiding though being either too pop or too traditional, or not appropriate to this serious topic. The main goal was to catch the attention of the audience of people of different ages, especially the younger ones. And to speak their “language”. For this reason, the music theme comprises elements from the musical tradition of the area, and it’s built using specific regionally relevant scales (like the Syrian Haxatonic and the Arabic Maqam). Indeed, the melodic instruments Oud and Qanon give color to the composition and the daff is used for the rhythm.

What the client says …

In our talks with EZKS we were particularly happy to hear their perspective. They were fascinated by what they experienced in the storytelling workshops, by our approach in dealing with the topic and the project as a whole: with curiosity, lots of energy and with the utmost meticulousness. It was fun for them to make us understand the details of this process.

Another aspect that made us win their trust and enthusiasm in working with us was the talent of our workshop expert and copywriter. Often they highlighted how she managed in the scripts to transport clear messages in a very limited number of words. Straight to the point but without being didactic, rather talking to the emotional and rational side of the viewers.

This is of course a great satisfaction, and a compliment. And at the same time it confirms that the way we go, together with the clients, is the right one. The idea and the script are the essential backbone of a film, a film that functions!

The next level in series-making

The EZKS project was a new challenge for us, both in terms of content and concept. Each episode is meant to build on the other. With every video, we added an extra layer of information to the story and in the last episode we revealed the “epilogue”, which in reality is the new beginning for the Syrian people. With this project, we went indeed a step further concerning storytelling, and we look forward to future productions in this direction. However, we could count already on a broad and diverse experience in this regard. These are a few examples of the series we’re most proud of:

Arolsen Archives – the awarded project to support the #StolenMemory campaign (in German, English with French and Polish in the pipeline)

Transparency International – Campaign against money laundering (in English and in French)

wirBERLIN – short four-video series for school kids on different aspects of sustainability 

Earthbeat Foundation – an Instagram awareness and fundraising campaign for a project about the gold production chain 

Technical University of Denmark – a soccer match makes the complex research field of  microfluidics more accessible to a broader audience

Haufe Talent Management – LinkedIn Campaign designed to target HR manager

Swisscom Blockchain – using a circus metaphor, the series explains the different fields of application of the blockchain technology

Haufe Lexware – five 30 second-videos show the advantages of the software Lexware business plan

How to make an explainer video?

The answer is simple – with a fantastic team and a client with courage!

A huge “Thank You” goes to the EZKS team, especially to Eva Savelsberg and Siamend Hajo for having trusted and supported us along the way, and of course to our fantastic Goldener Westen team:

Toby Mory – Motion Director & Team Lead Motion, Producer
Wibke Ehrmann – Workshops Lead, Concept & Copywriter
Leo Rey – Creative Director and Lead Motion Designer
Qian Hao – Art Director, Illustrator and Motion Designer
Luca Büttner – Motion Designer
Federico Truzzi – Music & Sound designer
Adham Fares – Voice Over Artist (EN and AR)
Francesca La Vigna – Project Manager