The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) expressed on Thursday concern about Orwa Nyrabia, a Syrian filmmaker and festival organizer who disappeared last week en route to Egypt, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Nyrabia is believed to have been detained by Syrian security services as he prepared to board a flight from Damascus to Cairo. He has not been seen since August 23.
“Nyrabia belongs to the emerging generation of Syrian filmmakers passionate about world cinema and passionate about freedom. We are extremely concerned by his arrest – filmmakers must be allowed to express themselves through their films, without fear of reprisal,” a TIFF press release said.
Nyrabia's wife, Diana El-Jeiroudi, issued a statement last week saying she had had not been able to contact him and had understood from the airline that he did not board the plane. Film industry professionals in Europe and New York have also called on Syrian authorities to account for his whereabouts.
Nyrabia and his wife formed the first production company in Syria independent of the government and founded Dox Box, a festival that brought international documentaries to Syria.
Earlier this year, they were awarded a prize by the European Documentary Network for their exceptional contribution to the development of documentary cinema. The prize came with resources that helped the festival remain independent.
Nyrabia often served as a jury member in film festivals in Europe and the Middle East. This year, he also organized a Dox Box Global Day to bring Syrian films to international audiences, showcasing insider views of continuing violence and government repression in Syria.
The festival website said its aim was to show the world "how poverty, oppression and isolation do not prevent humans from being spectacularly brave, stubborn and dignified."
Nyrabia worked on films such as 2002’s Sacrifices with Oussama Mohammad and was collaborating with documentary director Omar Amiralay, an activist involved in the Damascus Spring, when Amiralay died in 2011.