Our Terrible Country

Documentary Films

SIFF Says:

"An urgent dispatch from the front lines of war-torn Syria, OUR TERRIBLE COUNTRY is also an intimate portrait of two men, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, a well-known Syrian intellectual and dissident, and Ziad Homsi, a young photographer and revolutionary. We first meet the men amid the ruins of Douma, a city ""liberated"" by the ""Free Syria"" forces fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Wandering through the spectacular devastation of a ""liberated zone,"" Saleh, whose earlier activism earned him a 16-year prison sentence, posits that, ""it's important for a writer to live the situation he writes about."" But both men are to undergo changes of heart as the film, and the fighting, progresses. When Saleh's relatives are arrested in his hometown of Raqqa by ISIS, the duo embarks on a perilous cross-country journey that eventually takes them to physical safety, but forces each to confront his generation’s role in the struggle for the soul of their country. "

Stranger Says:

Whether you’re confused by the situation in Syria or think you aren’t—or think you don’t care—this dangerous, ramshackle, and strangely beautiful documentary is required viewing. A journalist and a photographer with tiny, handheld cameras flee from a “liberated” (and decimated) quarter of Damascus to the Islamist stronghold of Raqqa and then to southern Turkey, following Yassin Haj Saleh, a famous Syrian intellectual who’s trying to dodge both the Assad regime and the butchers of ISIS—and despairs that the region can’t find a moderate, liberal alternative beyond the two. The trio moves through firefights, airstrikes, sniper zones, rubble, abandoned towns, dangerous daytime walks and furtive nighttime truck rides through the desert, all the while analyzing the situation as it’s unfolding. It’s like a Go-Pro video of the apocalypse with a highly educated writer giving real-time narration. (BRENDAN KILEY)

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Film Credits
Mohammad Ali Atassi, Ziad Homsi
Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Ziad Homsi
SIFF 2015