Our Terrible Country

Notre terrible pays
Director: Mohammad Ali Atassi, Ziad Homsi

Syria, Lebanon, 2014, documentary, 85 min., arabic with english and lithuanian subtitles, N-16

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 in 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.


2014 – Grad Prix of the International Competition at FID Marseille.

About the directors:

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. 

Ziad 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.

Section: Main programme

Screenplay: Mohammad Ali Atassi

Dir. of Photography: Ziad Homsi, Saeed Albatal