Bidayyat for Audiovisual Arts presents Our Terrible Country (2014, 85 minutes, Syria/Lebanon), a film by Mohammad Ali Atassi and Ziad Homsi.

This road movie portrays the perilous journey of well-known writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh and young photographer Ziad Homsi through war torn Syria.

After 16 years in prison for belonging to the Syrian left, Yassin (53) joins Syria’s popular uprising in 2011. Ziad (24), occasionally fighting with the rebels, takes photographs of his hometown Douma. The two men meet and become friends in this Damascene suburb where Yassin and his wife Samira had found shelter.

Together, they embark on an adventurous journey through the desert to al-Haj Saleh’s native town Raqqa in Northeast Syria, now occupied by the “Islamic State in Iraq and Levant” (ISIS), which also kidnapped two of Yassin’s brothers.

Consequently, the writer moves to Istanbul to continue working for the rebels and is joined by Ziad following his release from ISIS. They are both hopeful that they will return and be reunited with their families. However, the situation becomes hopeless when Samira and human rights lawyer Razan Zeitouneh are kidnapped.

And the film ends while Syria tumbles into a yawning abyss.

Mohammad Ali Atassi is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. He was born in 1967 in Damascus, Syria. Atassi obtained a diploma in civil engineering from Damascus University in 1992 and a DEA in history from the Sorbonne Paris 4 in 1996. Since 2000, he has been writing for several Arab and international newspapers on political and cultural topics. In 2001, he did a documentary film on the Syrian dissident Riad Turk elaborating the latter’s prison experience of 18 years in Syrian prisons while Atassi explored Turk’s positions on the Syrian revolution in a second documentary movie in 2012 called “Ibn Al Am online”. Moreover, he realized “Waiting for Abu Zaid” portraying the famous Egyptian Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid who was a pioneer of reformist ideas on Islam until his death in 2010. Atassi’s films have been shown in several festivals worldwide and has gained several awards for his work.

Filmography of Mohammad Ali Atassi

1. Ibn Al Am Online (2012, ), Film on Syrian dissident Riad Turk within the Syrian Revolution. Documentary.

2. Waiting for Abu Zaid (2010), Film on Egyptian Kur’anic thinker and one of the leading liberal theologians in Islam. Documentary. Awards: Two Prizes at FID Marseille festival, 2010: Georges de Beauregard International Prize &Public Libraries Prize, Dox Box festival- Damascus 2011: Best Syrian Documentary Prize.

3. Ibn Al Am (2001) Film on Syrian dissident Riad Turk. Documentary.

Ziad Homsi was born in 1989 in Damascus/Syria and has studied Business Administration, his passion however being always photography. Thus, with the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011, he has become one of the most important photographers in his hometown, which is the suburb of Douma and is known to be one of the centers of the uprising. His pictures have been shown in various exhibitions in Europe, among others in Copenhagen, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. In 2012, he has also realized a short documentary on the security crackdown and massacres that was inflicted on the residents of the city of Douma by the Syrian security forces.

Filmography of Ziad Homsi

1. Oh Douma (2012) – Short documentary on the security crackdown and massacres that was inflicted on the residents of the city of Douma by the Syrian security forces

- Grand Prize of FID Marseille 2014

- Nominated for International Competition at: Cinemed Montpellier/France 2014

- Nominated for competitive section “Investigations” at Doc Lisboa/Portugal 2014

- Nominated for the film prize “Leipzig ring” for documentaries dealing with the subject of civil involvement/dedication for human right and democracy

- Nominated for the category “competition of documentary feature film at Asia Pacific Screen Awards/Australia

Directed by Mohammad Ali Atassi and Ziad Homsi

Written by Mohammad Ali Atassi

Cinematography Ziad Homsi, Saeed Albatal

Edited by Marwan Ziadeh

Sound designer Nadim Mishlawe

Audio postproduction DB Studios

Post production The postoffice

Translation Stefan Tarnowski

Executive Producer Christin Luettich

Production Bidayyat for Audiovisual Arts

Original Title Baldna AlRaheeb

English Title Our terrible country

Country of production Syria, Lebanon

Year of production 2014

Film Type Documentary film

Duration 85 min

Shooting Format HD

Screening format DCP, Blueray

Colour Colour

Ration 16:9

Framerate 25 fps

Sound Stereo

Original Language Arabic

Language of subtitle English, French