There is always another side of the story. When American filmmakers were making Films under American banners about Syria, the screens were hugely occupied by their side of the narrative. They usually picturized the conflicts and struggles of American Soldiers in the Syrian War. In recent times, mostly due to increasing streaming platforms and trends, we have been able to easily watch the Other Side of the Story. The story about Syria and its people. No Man’s Land tries to showcase that reality through its protagonist, Antoine Habert. He transforms from a french outsider to a YPJ militant, just in order to find the truth about her dead sister.
Directed by Oded Ruskin, No Man’s Land is a middle eastern war drama told in 8 episodes of 40 minutes each. The characters are from different regions and thus, a variety of languages have been used for dialogues. The series isn’t perfect but there are certain pictorial and subtextual elements that haven’t been seen on screen before. Before talking about it, let’s take a quick look at the premise.
‘No Man’s Land’ Summary
No Man’s Land begins with a half-naked Antoine Habert (Félix Moati) captured at gunpoint by YPJ volunteers. During the initial introduction, the episode gives a quick brief about YPJ, which is a voluntary militia unit largely composed of ferocious women who oppose the atrocities of ISIS in Syria.
The narrative travels 5 days back in order to explain how Antoine ended up in Syria. In a news channel, Antoine finds a blonde woman enacting the same gesture as her dead sister, Anna Habert (Mélanie Thierry). Antonie digs further and finds footage where he finds a woman exactly resembling Anna, but to his best knowledge, Anna is dead. She died sometime back during an archaeology assignment in Turkey.
Antoine can’t suppress the need to find the truth about this mysterious woman and thus initiates a journey to Turkey and then Syria to find out the truth about his sister, Anna. In his journey to find Anna, Antoine observes the actual reality of war-stricken Syria. What is unusual about the scenario is the depiction of YPJ, whose story has never been put on screen before.
Major Spoilers Ahead
YPJ – Band of Ferocious Syrian Women
The tyrannical ISIS has deduced the status of a woman to a commodity, fit only for household and sex. It was the need of the hour to find someone who can save them. But this isn’t a story about waiting for a prince charming. The call of action here is to pick up arms against all those who oppress a woman, a civilian, or children. YPJ swore to exterminate all ISIS militants from their lands.
Through Antoine, we soak the stories of all these oppressed Syrian/Islamic women. In the beginning, Antoine became a part of the group just to find his sister Anna, who might be fighting for YPJ. But later, their pleas and their grieve make him get attached to their cause. From an outsider, he becomes an insider of the group.
Multiple Grapevines leading to Branch of all Evil – ISIS
Under a story circle, the narrative is about Antoine trying to find his sister in the outlaw land of Syria. But when you dig deep into the story, there are many layers protruding from it, all targeted to the evil of the mainland, ISIS.
YPJ isn’t the only one fighting against the oppressor, but there are international agencies too who are trying to contribute to the cause. Hopefully, it isn’t America. Israel’s secret service agency Mossad has been trying hard to stop the growth of Islamic Stronghold. For that reason, it has planted several agents in ISIS, Syria, and Turkey for intel and to have a check on their power. Antoine’s sister, Anna, and ISIS’s upcoming hero, Nasser Al-Shammri (James Krishna Floyd) are the important spies in Syria.
Nasser and Anna share a history but the timelines are too confusing sometimes. It had a great potential of building character and relationships between the two in the initial episodes but it lost its way. The narrative isn’t chronological. It moves to and fro in time to unfold the past of these characters. For example, episode 2, goes back in time to give a few details about Anna’s death from Antoine’s point of view, who went to Turkey to collect Anna’s belongings and heavily burnt body. Similar flashbacks have been positioned for Naseer, Anna, and other important characters.
Not Captivating Enough
No Man’s Land portrays a realm of Syrian Reality. A truth that is distressing. Families driven out of their homes, living in refugee camps, men killed for no reason, women raped for pleasure, children turned into suicide bombers, and dead bodies planted on a cross, are some of the shocking visuals picturized in the series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here, ISIS’s preachings of disowning music and art and killing in the name of God in the hope of a paradise filled with virgins is equally outrageous.
The series shows intent but what it lacks is a gripping narrative. In the beginning, episodes, until the mystery keeps unfolding, the series holds you with it’s drama and thrill. But once, Antoine becomes a part of YPJ and carries out their task, the monotonicity peeps in. The screen is filled with repeated elements and cliche narrative, with nothing new to offer. It had a great start but it soon lost its way. There was an expectancy of a thrilling climax but it falls into mediocrity as well.
‘No Man’s Land’ Ending Explained
Antoine does find his sister Anna, who is now a full time militant and a celebrated war hero of YPJ. With the help of intel provided by Nasser, Anna kills an important ISIS leader. But in the combat, Antoine’s new grown love interest, Sarya gets injured. Anna arranges a locomotive for Antoine and Sarya to leave Syria and go back to Paris where they belong. Anna stays back in Syria to continue the war against ISIS. Mossad’s agent Stanley has to leave for Israel, thus, Naseer will report to Anna in the future. Anna becomes an eminent part of YPJ and Mossad in Syria, with their collective goal to finish ISIS.
Anna takes a promise from Antoine before he leaves, not to reveal to anyone that Anna is alive. For everyone’s good and hers, he should let Anna remain dead. Antoine does so. He bids his sister and the No man’s land.
No Man’s Land has its moments but it isn’t something one can binge on because it gets heavy with too much middle eastern politics and dialects. But if you are interested in a thriller drama that isn’t all about America and explores other mainlands or realities of the world, then you could give it a shot. It won’t disappoint you, but it won’t please you either. For a horrifying reality check of the harm, humans have done to nations by following their extremist regime, do watch this one. It is filled with such visuals and texts.
No Man’s Land is streaming on Hulu.
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