Our Terrible Country (2014, Ali Atassi)
Contemporary Syrian Documentaries
curated by Nathalie Khankan (Near Eastern Studies)
in partnership with the Arab Film Festival
This road movie portrays the perilous journey of well-known intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh and young photographer Ziad Homsi through Syria, at a time when the country edges towards the brink.
Yassin (53), who spent 16 years in prison for belonging to the Syrian left, goes underground in 2011 to serve Syrias popular uprising, while Ziad (24) - occasionally fighting with the rebels - takes photographs in his hometown Douma. In this Damascene suburb where Yassin and his wife Samira Khalil found shelter - the two men meet and become friends.
Together, they embark on an adventurous journey through the desert to al-Haj Salehs native town Raqqa in Northeast Syria. Upon their arrival, Raqqa is occupied by the "Islamic State in Iraq and Levant" (ISIS), which also kidnapped two brothers of Yassin.
Consequently, the thinker leaves for Istanbul to pursue his writing for the revolution, hoping for a reunion with his wife Samira who remained in Douma. Ziad abducted by ISIS on his way back rejoins Yassin after his release, hoping to return home soon. All hopes are shattered when Samira gets abducted jointly with human rights lawyer Razan Zeitouneh.
And the film ends while Syria tumbles into a yawning abyss.
Part of "To Aleppo Gone:" Syrian Culture Today, series of programs exploring the arts in Syria, hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, in conjunction with Near Eastern Studies and the Arab Film Festival.