On Kanopy: The presence of resilience in ‘Radio Kobanî’

Visceral documentary recalls the harrowing effects of war through the eyes of a young journalist

Mason Hickok, Web Editor

Radio Kobanî” is a 2016 documentary by Kurdish-Dutch director Reber Dosky. Filmed over a three-year period, it follows a young journalist named Divalon who –– through her grassroots radio station –– chronicles the rebuilding of her city.

The region is Northern Syria, specifically, Ayn Al-Arab or, as the local population calls it, Kobanî. The city is Kurdish-majority and not far from the border with Turkey. Kobanî was the target of an attack by the Islamic State in Sept. 2014. The siege leveled much of the city, displacing the local population. The immediacy of the effects of the invasion is felt in a wide, fly-over shot of the city. 

This documentary was incredibly visceral — utilizing both filmed footage and recordings during the invasion, a deeply affecting aura is created, taking the viewers on a journey into a place shattered by terrorism and chaos. The grounds of Kobanî are saturated with the blood, tears and struggle of its residents. Residents sift through the rubble to find the remnants of their past lives, comrades beneath collapsed buildings. One compelling moment shows a man ensuring that a victim is taken away with his Koran, a subtle touch. Divalon even remarks the moment she felt her humanity fading away. While these scenes are harrowing, the film never glorifies the violence. Eventually, they return to normalcy. 

Divalon’s resilience to archiving her surroundings is felt through her reporting. The film presents several vignettes of the citizens of Kobanî and their relationship to the war that uprooted their lives. Her conversations with refugees, soldiers and musicians present a Kobanî that is not defined by its presence in the media, but by the people who call it home. 

Content warning: There are graphic images of deceased bodies, distressing war footage and brief animal butchery present.

Runtime: 70 minutes

This film can be viewed on Kanopy’s website, which all UTSA students may access through the library’s databases page.