Return to Homs

2014 | 01:30 | NR

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A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to the non-profit DOX BOX to support independent media activists in the Middle East.

Nineteen-year-old Basset is the goalkeeper for the Syrian national soccer team. When revolution breaks out the charismatic young man becomes an iconic protest leader and singer. His songs reflect his dream of peaceful liberation from Assad's brutal regime. Osama is a 24-year-old media activist and pacifist wielding his camera to document the revolution. But when the army cracks down and their beloved Homs becomes a bombed-out ghost town, these two peaceful protesters take up arms and transform into renegade insurgents, with devastating results.

"This is Homs, but I don't know where I am," Basset says with characteristic joviality as he wanders through the destroyed buildings and rubble-filled streets of the city. They are the streets Basset and Osama grew up in, now a barren battlefield. In fractured homes, discarded living rooms speak of thousands of disrupted lives. Osama is disorientated by this completely new reality, "like an immigrant discovering a new city".

As the siege takes hold in Homs, these two friends gather together a circle of brave but ragtag comrades, determined to protect the trapped civilians and help to get them out of the city. Surviving on a diet of just a few olives and a single glass of dirty water a day, this handful of stranded amateur fighters hold out against the snipers, tanks and mortars of the Syrian Army. They scuttle through the ghost town like rats, resourceful and single-minded.

Soon bravado gives way to despair as the reality of their David and Goliath battle takes hold. Sitting in a destroyed hallway lit by streaks of sunshine that make their way through the rubble, the normally optimistic Basset seems broken. Osama has been captured and the fight is not going well. "I no longer have it in me to do this. All my close friends are gone. I'm fed up man."

Yet out of despair grows a renewed, more bitter determination. "Will this revolution ever end?" the film's director Derki asks. "Sure - they're not immortal", smiles Basset. Pushed out of the city by Assad's forces, he prepares his men for a dangerous return to Homs. "Kill me, but just open up an exit for the people", the brave young leader cries.

Primal and visceral, this extraordinary film dives into the reality of the Syrian resistance with a frenzied immediacy. Through a remarkable intimacy it captures the dreaded rite of passage of two friends and a haunting battle cry for justice.

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