Rebel-turned-filmmaker asks why Syria went so wrong

Shot in 2013, the film depicts the soul-searching that Homsi and his travel companion

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With Syria’s civil war spilling across its borders and ISIS militants beheading captives in their self-declared caliphate, it is little wonder Syrian movies have had pride of a place at an independent film festival in Turkey.

One of them, “Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait”, shown at the Cannes Film Festival last year, was pieced together by exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed from YouTube videos. It shows people being shot and bleeding to death, not surprising in a film about a civil war.


By contrast, the documentary “Our Terrible Country”, filmed in Syria and shown at this week’s “!F” festival in Istanbul, has just one violent scene - a shootout between rebels and snipers loyal to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“No blood, no torture - that was deliberate,” Ziad Homsi, a rebel-turned filmmaker who made the movie with co-director Mohammad Ali Atassi, said as he walked near Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

“As Syrian people, we have been humiliated enough. Just look at the destruction, and that will make you ask about those who once who lived here.”

Instead, “Our Terrible Country” is an almost philosophical attempt to answer the question: “What has become of our native land?”

“Is it possible that lot came because of us?” Homsi, 25, says in the film. He was referring to the Islamist insurgents who have taken over large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq during years of fighting between Assad’s forces and rebels trying to overthrow him, in a civil war that has killed 200,000 people.

Shot in 2013, the film depicts the soul-searching that Homsi and his travel companion, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, a Syrian dissident and writer, during a 19-day journey to Raqqa, Saleh’s hometown. They traveled in extreme heat -- and in constant fear of being targeted by various Islamist groups.

“The Syria we want won’t emerge under these people. They’re destroying Syria, just like the regime,” Homsi says in the film.

As the film draws to a close, the two sit at a restaurant in Istanbul, and talk of their yearning for families trapped in Syria. They question the revolution and where they belong and are dismayed about their fading chances of returning.

“Even though it resembles a slaughterhouse today, this is our country and we have no other. And I know that no country will be kinder to us than this terrible country,” Saleh says.

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