‘Easiest to blame one side’: Actress-turned-filmmaker decries West’s ‘double standards’ in Syria
The 38-year-old told RT the major powers were immediately prejudiced in their view of Bashar Assad’s government as soon as the conflict broke out in 2011.
“There’s always a double standard towards small nations, because it is the law of existence that the big fish eats the small fish,” she said in an interview with RT Deutsch to talk about her experience while filming “Voice of Syria”, a documentary that she hopes will give a more authentic insider portrait of the conflict.
Six years ago, Ortiz was immediately glued to her screen, but believed that even avid news watchers weren’t getting the true picture.
The filmmaker, who has lived in the US for more than a decade, says the coverage was not only distorted by media biases, but by hearing stories predominantly from those who fled the country, or had a vested interest in denigrating the government, rather than those who stayed at home and stayed loyal.
“In the Western world we are so busy, and the world is moving so fast, we don’t have the time to understand conflicts happening in other parts of the world,” she says.
The actress, who rose to fame as a result of her parts in Mexican telenovelas, is less charitable towards some world leaders, who she says have been “impulsive” and “have directly or indirectly supported terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as South America.”
To Ortiz, the turn from “moderate rebels” funded by the West to “radical Islamists” to potential future terrorists attacking Western cities is predictable, and she laments the enthusiasm with which the US and its allies picked sides in the conflict.
“It’s easier to put the blame on one side, and not remember our own actions, and see that we can fix the situation if we understand the root of the problem,” she says of the US-led coalition’s approach to resolving a conflict that is thought to have claimed more than 400,000 lives thus far.
After watching from afar, she decided to tackle what has been the biggest news story in the world over the past half-decade, “talking to men, women and children, those who are for the government, and against it.”
Apart from the practical difficulties of filming in wartime, Ortiz thought she would finish telling their story “in two, maybe three” trips, instead of living in and out of the country almost constantly since March 2016, when she first landed in Damascus.
Once inside Syria, all preconceptions quickly evaporated.
“I tried to get back to basics, and understand the conflict from the point of view of the people and what they stand for,” she says of her approach during filming.
With the media more interested in highlighting the ideological differences between the various factions in the country, Ortiz said that after six years, most Syrians “want to be able to have their lives back. They don't want war, they want to be able to send their children to school. Students want to be able to go to universities without having to be bombed, they want to rebuild their lives.”
In her experience, and for most civilians, the longing for normality transcends the religious and sectarian divides, and she notes that Syria has successfully sustained a multi-faith society for thousands of years.
“This is one of the few countries in the world where Muslims and Christians are united,” says Ortiz. “They want to keep their unity and their secularism, and many are angry that outsiders are always talking about their religion. They don’t want to talk about their religion, and they want to be referred to as Syrians.”
Ortiz, says that she “fell in love” with Syria and is not taking a break. She plans to make a documentary about Yemen, another conflict she believes has not been covered adequately, and then to go beyond sensationalist filmmaking and find the true face of North Korea.