In 1949, the German thinker Theodor Adorno famously declared that to jot down poetry after Auschwitz was “barbaric.” The query underpinning his assertion stays ever related: In the face of wars, genocides and different atrocities, does art-making serve any function? David Henry Gerson’s documentary, “The Story Won’t Die,” solutions with a resounding sure. The Syrian refugee artists profiled in the movie — women and men who’ve suffered one of probably the most brutal displacements of our time — make a case not only for artwork’s survival however for artwork as a means of survival.
Weaving collectively interviews with a quantity of Syrian singers, rappers, dancers and visible artists now based mostly in Europe, Gerson probes the methods in which creative expression emerges each as a result of and in spite of repression. For some, just like the post-rock musician Anas Maghrebi, who introduced his three drum kits on the boat throughout the Atlantic, their vocation is a non secular life jacket of kinds. For others, just like the photographer Omar Imam, the expertise of migration has supplied a livid impetus: His “Syrialism” collection makes an attempt to redefine stereotypical depictions of refugees.
Threading the needle between particular person tales and a broader historic portrait is as a lot a problem for Gerson as it’s for his topics. While the artists are desperate to signify their experiences in their work, they wish to be seen as greater than “a laboratory rat for people to show documentaries about,” says Bahila Hijazi, a member of an all-female Syrian rock band. If Gerson’s brisk supercut model can really feel frustratingly cursory at instances, he chooses properly to concede the stage to the artists — rousing scenes from live shows and recitals are the movie’s highlights — somewhat than flip them into knowledge factors for an exhaustive account of the refugee disaster.
The Story Won’t Die
Not rated. In Arabic and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. In theaters and accessible to lease or purchase on Amazon, Vudu and different streaming platforms and pay TV operators.