Returning Childhood: an interview with Nawar Bulbul and Bart Pitchford

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Can staging tragedy help heal the wounds of true tragedy?

Shakespeare in Zaatari is a documentary  film directed by Maan Mouslli, which features Nawar Bulbul, a Syrian actor, playwright and director, and his work directing a production of King Lear and Hamlet with children in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

The first American screening of Shakespeare in Zaatari was shown on Winona State’s campus as part of the Frozen River Film Festival on February 10, 2018.

Following the screening Mr. Bulbul and Bart Pitchford, from the  University of Texas,  spoke to Andrew Troke, Siena Kuehn and Fatima Mota of Cotter Teen Press.

When filming started, Zaatari was a camp of almost 150,000 Syrian refugees living in tents in Jordanian desert.

The children were forced out of their homes by the Syrian civil war, which is now entering into its eighth year.

The documentary focuses on kids from the refugee camp working with Nawar Bulbul to put on King Lear and Hamlet. They are not in school and when given the opportunity by Bulbul’s team to perform Shakespeare they rise to the challenge.

In the film Bulbul says one of the projects’ goals was to “return childhood” to children who have suffered from displacement, loss of family and friends, and the loss of normal childhood pursuits.

The Shakespeare project  gave the young refugees a place to express their feelings and talk about life before the war. The film show both joy and sadness as the rehearsals progress and some lucky members of the group get to go outside the refugee camp to stage a performance.

Shakespeare in Zaatari is an inspiring story, as it shows the spirit of the children in the camp and the challenges they face in life and the lack of support they often face.

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