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Chinese Movie Production Team Takes over Syria’s Hajar al-Aswad

Chinese Movie Production Team Takes over Syria’s Hajar al-Aswad

Saturday, 23 July, 2022 - 10:30
Filming in Hajar al-Aswad near the Syrian capital Damascus of a scene in "Home Operation", produced by actor Jackie Chan. (AFP)

Bustling noise is heard in the far northeast of Syria's town of Hajar al-Aswad, which was a major stronghold for ISIS. The racket is made by a Chinese film crew shooting a Jackie Chan-produced action movie, called “Home Operation.”

Hajar al-Aswad, which means “black rock” in Arabic, was once a densely populated Damascus suburb that lies next to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.

The town has two main neighborhoods called “Tishreen” and “Thawra.”

Hajar al-Aswad was the home of the largest concentration of IDPs from the occupied Golan since the June 1967 war, and was one of the first areas that witnessed protests against the regime in the spring of 2011, before it was controlled by opposition factions in 2012.

The town then fell into the hands of ISIS from mid-2015 until 2018.

In 2018, Syrian regime forces, with backing from Russia, were able to regain control of Hajar al-Aswad by waging a vicious and destructive military campaign.

Swathes of Hajar al-Aswad were completely leveled as the campaign erased 80% of the town’s infrastructure.

“The war-ravaged areas in Syria have turned into a movie studio. These areas attract film producers,” said director Rawad Shahin, who is part of the film's Syria crew.

“Building studios similar to these areas is very expensive, so these areas are considered as low-cost studios,” he said.

The production team says it plans to use several other locations to film in Syria, where productions from Iran and Russia have also been shot.

Touring one of Hajar al-Aswad’s streets, where one of the movie’s scenes was being shot, Asharq Al-Awsat discovered a group of locals who were barred by the crew from inspecting their homes destroyed by war because filming was underway.

They were forced to take a longer route home, much to their frustration.

They voiced their discontent on how locals who belong to the area were turned away from their homes, while foreigners shooting the movie could move freely.

“Isn’t it better for the government to rebuild destroyed neighborhoods and have the foreigners shoot a movie about the return of refugees to their homes,” one of the locals said cynically.

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