Unter Wasser


I lie on my back, under the surface of the water. The sea is purple. I feel the warmth with every pore of my body. I’m not afraid anymore.

“I see everything,” she says, as if it was a curse. Brilliant sunshine, clear blue skies. The sea is calm, framed by a piece of railing. Buzzing voices. A peaceful moment if it weren’t for the fact that the sea is standing upright, vertical, like a waterfall. A rush of images, twirling, upside down, jolting. People in the boat, in the water, screams, life jackets, emergency whistles. Fluorescent orange, geometrical shapes cast by the sun. There’s no horizon any more, no sky, no up or down, only deepness and nothing to hold on to. Even time’s flow comes to a halt, contracting into the brutal present. She is filming and speaking. To him, to herself, to us, perhaps. Floating legs in sweat pants, jeans, thronged together. A blouse with butterflies, it looks like their wings are flapping in the water. The snake-like belt of a coat, a crumpled-up plastic cup, a pack of cigarettes. Fuck you all! She speaks, she rages, and she films to beat being tired, being cold, the fact that help isn’t coming. To beat dying, just for something to remain.


Author/Director/Narrator Amel Alzakout
Co-Author/Co-Director Khaled Abdulwahed
Editor Philip Scheffner
Dramaturgy Alex Gerbaulet, Merle Kröger,
Philip Scheffner
Sound Design Simon Bastian
Golour Grading Matthias Behrens
Producers Alex Gerbaulet, Ines Meier
Commissioning Editor ZDF/ARTE Doris Hepp

Produced by pong
Co-produced by ZDF
in cooperation with ARTE

Funded by
Robert Bosch Stiftung
Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa

Contact Production pong
Alex Gerbaulet
E-mail: gerbaulet(at)pong-berlin.de
Tel: +49 (0)30 61076098

Contact World Sales Lightdox
Anna Berthollet
E-mail: anna(at)lightdox.com
Tel: +41 (0) 78 637 04 44 | +33 (0) 6 20 65 33 03



  • Festivals

    World premiere: Berlinale – International Filmfestival Berlin – Forum Expanded
    International premiere: Visions du Réel – International Feature Film Competition

    Further Festivals 2020-21:

    • Dokumentar Film Woche Hamburg
    • Open City Documentary Festival
    • Taiwan Int. Human Rights Film Festival (Asian premiere)
    • Human Rights Film Festival Inconvenient Films – Best Film Award
    • Camden Film Festival (North American Premiere)
    • New Horizons IFF
    • IDFA – Paradocs (Dutch Premiere)
    • RIDM (Canadian Premiere)
    • Filmmaker Festival (Italian Premiere)
    • Pravo Ljudski Film Festival
    • Muestra de Cine de Lanzarote
    • Document Human Rights FF
    • WANDA, Belfast: Feminism and Moving Image
    • DocPoint Helsinki Documentary FF
    • Doclisboa
    • Anthology Film Archive with Goethe Institute New York German Showcase
      Becoming Earthly
    • Ann Arbor Film Festival
    • ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin 2020
    • One World Romania Festival Bucharest
    • Costa Rica IFF
    • Iceland Documentary Film Festival (Iceland Premiere)
    • Goethe Film Week in Egypt
    • Experimental Film and Video Festival in Seoul – EXiS
    • Festival Internacional de Cine independiente de La Plata Festi-Freak
    • paradoks Film Festival
    • London Migration Film Festival
    • Docs in Exile Film Festival (Greek Premiere)
  • Awards

    • Best Film Award | Human Rights Film Festival Inconvenient Films Lithuania | 2020
    • Youth Jury Prize | International Competition Filmmaker Festival Milano Italy | 2020
    • Special Mention | International Competition DocPoint Festival Helsinki Finnland | 2021
  • Reviews

    Sean Farnel | Purple Sea | read the whole article here
    "It's too easy to turn away from such a film, to come up for air. In the cinema, I couldn't do that. I'm "screening" it on my laptop, where most of us have watched some of this year's most outstanding films. Purple Sea is one of them, a documentary work of art."
    Kevin B. Lee | Purple Sea, A Boundless Expanse | read full essay here
    "... Purple Sea challenges the immediacy of the visual by plumbing the depths of its protagonist’s subjectivity. Merging sensory rawness with lyrical reflection, it discovers both beauty and dignity in the tragedy from which it is born. ..."
    Kees Driessen | Purple Sea Review | read the whole review
    "This is a one-hour moment. ... the view from the other side. Not a number, but a person. In a sense, this film is almost nothing. In another sense, it is everything. It’s the essence of an enormous geopolitical mess, boiled down, for me, to this single image: legs, dangling under water. Moving slowly, hypnotically, in a cold, ghastly blue. While the image itself also sways, back and forth, at the pace of the waves, reminding us of the person it is attached to. It is a moving image of death – no one here knows if they’ll make it, no one can do anything, except hold on, and wait for help that might never come, or come too late."
    Dominic Schmid | Purple Sea Rezension für Filmexplorer | weiter zum Artikel
    […] Die Montage ist schwarze Magie und der ganze Film ein Fluch. Gegen Europa und seine Grenzen gerichtet. «Fuck you all.» 
    Rochus Wolff | Hilflos, nicht passiv | Kino-Zeit | weiter zum Artikel
    "Eine Stunde ist eine lange Zeit, wenn man im Wasser treibt, orientierungslos, dicht über, dicht unter der Wasseroberfläche. Aber die 67 Minuten, die reine Laufzeit von Amel Alzakouts Film „Purple Sea“, sind ja auch nicht die Geschichte. Sie sind, so dokumentarisch sie sind, so real und unmittelbar, vor allem nicht die ganze Geschichte." 
  • CVs

    Regie Amel Alzakout
    born 1988 in Syria, is an artist, puppet maker and film maker based in Leipzig. Between 2010 and 2013 she studied Journalism at Cairo University (Egypt). Between 2017 and 2018 she studied art at Weißensee Art Academy in Berlin. Since 2019 she studies media art at the Academy of visual art (HGB) in Leipzig. For her future experimental video projects, she started creating a series of puppet-characters in 2013 and writes about them. In 2017 she participated with other artists in the video installation "TRUST US” in the 3rd Herbstsalon at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin

    backyard (2018, experimental film, assistant director to Khaled Abdulwahed, 26')
    Stranger's Diaries (2019, 8-channel video installation, together with Khaled Abdulwahed, 35')
    purple sea (2020, co-Autor Khaled Abdulwahed, experimental documentary, 67')

    Co-Regie Khaled Abdulwahed
    born 1975 in Syria, is an artist, photographer and filmmaker based in Leipzig. Between 1996 and 2000 he studied Fine Arts and Graphic Design at Adham Ismail art school in Damascus / Syria, and at Frederick University in Nicosia / Cyprus. Between 2002 and 2008 he exhibited his artworks in art spaces and galleries in the Middle East and Europe. Between 2011 and 2015 Khaled Abdulwahed directed and produced the three video artworks 'Bullet' (2011), 'Tuj' (2012) and 'Slot In Memory' (2013) which were amongst others screened at Berlin Art Biennale, Centre Georges Pompidou, Impakt Festival in Utrecht and by ARTE. In 2015 Khaled was invited to Berlinale Talents / DOC Station for his first feature length experimental documentary ‘Jellyfish’. The film was selected for Berlinale Forum, 2016. In 2017 he participated with other artists and filmmakers in the SPOTS campaign for the 'Tribunal Unraveling the NSU complex'.


    Bullet (2011, 2')
    Tuj (2012, 2')
    Slot In Memory (2013, 2'30'')
    Jellyfish (2016, 78')
    backyard (2018, 26')
    Stranger's Diaries (2019, zusammen mit Amel Alzakout, 8-Kanal-Videoinstallation, 35')
    purple sea (2020, Co-Regie, 67')
    background (2023, 64')

  • fact sheet

    Country: Germany 2020
    Length: 67 minutes
    Format: 2K DCP, ProRes mov, h264 mp4 | 16:9, 25 fps, colour | 5.1 & stereo
    Language: Arabic with English subtitles 


download film stills

download press kit EN