Alba Sotorra on her documentary Commander Arian, which follows a group of Syrian women fighting against ISIS.
Alba Sotorra captures one side of the complex and still-evolving conflict in Syria with her new fly-on-the-wall documentary, Commander Arian. The film follows a group of resistance fighters called YPJ (in English, “Woman’s Protector’s Unit”), who are based in the Kurdistan region of Syria. The women of this all-female group are not only fighting for their land but also for socio-economic equality between the sexes. The women know that if their area were to be taken over by a more patriarchal regime, such as ISIS, their independence could vanish.
Sotorra filmed the YPJ resistance fighters over a two-year period from 2015-2017 over “five to six trips. Every time I went there I spent at least two months” with the women. At first, “I wasn’t even filming, because I felt it was aggressive to arrive in a place with a camera,” Sotorra explained. She would “stay with them and then slowly start to film things that [she] had seen before happen,” such as group meetings that tended to occur every day. For these women, the mission was the most important thing; Sotorra needed to simply “go with the flow,” instead of seeking direct address interviews.