The Guardian reports that Feras Fayyad, the director of Last Men in Aleppo, is being targeted by Russian hackers dead set on discrediting his work. Generally, this is the job of rival studios trying to knock out competition (see recent bogus claims against the Shape of Water) but it appears that Russia would be invested in seeing this movie fail for obvious reasons. Now that they’ve gotten control of the narrative here, by dropping breadcrumbs for the left to chase around while Rome burns, they figure, why would they want a film like this to win the Academy Award? Draw more attention to the ongoing tragedy in Syria?
“It is like Russia wants to hack the Oscars like they hacked the US election,” he told the Guardian.
Since the Oscar nominations were announced, Fayyad, a Syrian national, has become the subject of several articles by Russia state news agency Sputnik News and “alternative news” sites to discredit his work, describing it as a “propaganda piece funded by western governments” and an “Al-Qaida promotional film”. Others have trawled through his social media accounts and published pictures of his family and friends. Syrian state media has followed suit. On Twitter and Facebook, dozens of accounts have accused Fayyad of being a liar and terrorist sympathiser.
Bringing this important film to the public, especially those in this country who would rather spend the day outraged by something someone said in an article back in 2003, is often a matter of life and death for these filmmakers:
It’s a dilemma that Fayyad has experienced in his quest to make documentaries about people in Syria. In pursuing his work on the ground he attracted the attention of Syria’s intelligence service, and spent many months being tortured in prison on suspicion of being a spy.
After being arrested at the airport and bundled into a vehicle with his T-shirt pulled over his head as a makeshift hood, Fayyad recalls peeping down from his blindfold at the knock-off Adidas shoes of one of his torturers. For months he passed between beatings, starvation and periods in isolation, stepping over dead bodies left in corridors and bathrooms. The Syrian regime insisted he was a spy working for the US or Europe.
Those months behind bars flash into Fayyad’s mind when faced with the unfounded criticism of his work. To be accused of being a spy or propagandist is a terrifying prospect.
“In the community in the Middle East this is shameful and it would make people not trust me if they think I’m collecting information for the FBI,” he said.
He is daunted by the prospect of winning, believing it could exacerbate the harassment. “I feel scared about what we might go through,” he said.
What is going on in Syria right now is beyond the comprehension of your average American. Needless to say, an Oscar win would drive much needed attention their way and would validate the life and death struggle of documentarians who risk their lives to bring people the truth.