Last updated: 4 March, 2014

Famed Syrian filmmaker held at border

Syria’s best-known filmmaker was taken in for questioning by Syrian intelligence forces at the border as he made his way to a Geneva film festival Tuesday, a friend told AFP.

Mohammad Malas was travelling to Beirut to take a flight to Geneva, where his latest film “Ladder to Damascus” is set to feature in the Swiss city’s upcoming film festival.

Malas “phoned me to tell me he is being held for questioning by Syrian intelligence at the Syrian-Lebanese border,” his friend said on condition of anonymity.

Last year Malas’s 1990 film “The Night” was named as one of the 10 best Arab films in a review by the Guardian newspaper.

The film was banned for four years in Syria.

At the start of Syria’s revolt against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Malas sympathised with the peaceful uprising.

The filmmaker, who still lives in Syria, made a documentary entitled “Everything is Fine” which dealt with the issue of political prisoners in the country.

For decades, Syria’s regime has systematically stifled expression, including the arts, frequently imprisoning intellectuals, journalists, artists and peaceful dissidents.