Germany, Finland


19-year-old Hala crossed the Euphrates River to escape a forced marriage and her IS supporting family. She finds shelter in a Military Academy where she is trained with a weapon to free other women in danger. After the Kurdish military takes over her city from ISIS, she returns to free her sisters from her parents' house.

Director's Statement

I exactly remember the moment when I saw in the news how the Syrian Democratic Forces (the forces of the Kurdish autonomous region called “Rojava”) took over the City of Manbij from the Islamic State. At this moment I was part of a solidarity movement for Rojava that was formed among leftist activists in Europe. As a feminist, I was fascinated by their promise of women’s liberation. The wish grew inside me to understand better who they are and if their struggle is as exciting as it looked from afar. So I decided to go to the Kurdish Areas in North East Syria and find out more. The situation in the city of Minbij, which' liberation from IS I just had seen in the news, was particularly interesting for me. I knew that this city had seen very different powers over the last years and I wanted to observe exactly this new situation, when the Kurdish Military takes over and tries to implement their political ideas. Of course I was aware that this intent of mine is huge and only possible to realise with people who know the situation better than me. I am very proud to work with an amazing author team. Without their knowledge and creativity this film would not have been possible to realise.

When I met Hala, I immediately fell in love with her, and she urgently wanted to tell her story to me. She had just escaped from her family in Manbij, and I was fascinated by her strength and positive energy.
I was curious about a generation of young women, represented by Hala, coming from traditional families yet looking for an emancipated life, who grew up in the middle of the Syrian war between many frontlines. What are their choices in these extreme conditions between IS, Military, and war? What are their dreams? What means freedom to them and how can they achieve this in the middle of the biggest conflict of the 21st century?

Director's Biography

Antonia Kilian is a director, cinematographer and producer. She studied Visual Communication as well as Art and Media at the Berlin University of Arts and Cinematography at the Film University in Potsdam Babelsberg and at the ISA in Havana, Cuba. In this time she worked as DoP for several films, both fiction and documentary that run on numerous international festivals. She created the video installation ASHES TO ASHES about the History of Burning Bodies, that was exhibited in the House of Cultures of the World Berlin and directed the documentary short SILENT NIGHT about racist attacks against migrants in Germany which won the Willi-Münzenberg Price for radical solidarity.

For her directorial debut THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER about a young woman fighting for self-determination in the middle of war, she lived for more than one year in North East Syria and participated in IDFA summerschool, Baltic Sea Forum and ExOriente. Since 2018 she is based between Kassel and Berlin and runs her own production company Pink Shadow Films.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Antonia Kilian

Written by: Antonia Kilian, Guevara Namer, Arash Asadi

Produced by: Frank Müller, Antonia Kilian, Guevara Namer, Merja Ritola

Cinematography: Antonia Kilian

Editing: Arash Asadi

Original Score: Ameen Khayer, Thorben Diekmann

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2021