Our Terrible Country’ takes us on the perilous journey of Yassin Haj Saleh, a well-known Syrian intellectual and dissident, and the young photographer Ziad Homsi who travel together in an arduous and dangerous route from the liberated area of Douma/Damascus to Raqqa in northern Syria, only to find themselves eventually forced to leave their home country for a temporary exile in Turkey.
While Yassin was detained in 1980 at the age of twenty, and remained imprisoned for 16 years, he is also one of the few intellectuals who participated clandestinely in the Syrian uprising since its earliest days in 2011. However, by mid-2013, Yassin has to leave Damascus together with his wife Samira for the liberated city of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta, where he meets the young filmmaker Ziad Homsi.
Given their encounter, the idea of a filmed portray on Yassin develops between Ziad and Ali Atassi, a Syrian filmmaker based in Beirut. But quickly, a deep bond develops between the Syrian intellectual and the photographer from two different generations, based on which Ziad decides to accompany and film Yassin on a difficult and dangerous journey towards Northern Syria. And thus, the initial portray of Yassin turns into a film about the relationship between two generations who have been involved, each in their own way, since the beginning of the Revolution, and reveals respectively their hopes, deceptions and defeats.
En route to liberated Raqqa, Yassin discovers that his hometown is under the control of the extremist Islamist organization ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the organization that had kidnapped his two brothers. Upon Yassin and Ziad’s arrival in Raqqa, Ali joins them as to capture the developing relationship between the two. But given the brutality of both, the Syrian regime and ISIS, Yassin finds himself compelled to abandon his home town and to flee to Istanbul, his place of reluctant and temporary exile, while Ziad is arrested by ISIS on his way back south to Douma, spending more than a month in prison, after which he, too, leaves for Turkey.
Living in Turkey, Yassin continues to pursue his reflection and analysis of Syrian political life. In exile and during the shooting of the film, Yassin learns that his wife, Samira Khalil, was abducted in Douma on 10 December 2013, at the same time as the human rights lawyer Razan Zeitouneh and two other activists.
The shooting of the film took more than a year in a number of regions in Syria and Turkey. The film, and the fate of its characters, represents the stages of the Syrian Revolution, from its pacifist beginnings to its militarization, the bombardment and destruction of cities by the Syrian Regime, and the emergence of extremist Islamist currents and their quest to take hold of the revolution.
Production Year: 2014
Director: Mohammad Ali Atassi & Ziad Homsi