Faisal Attrache tells the story of the Great Syrian Revolt through his great-grandfather
Making a short film on such a sprawling historical subject as the Great Syrian Revolt seems like a daring endeavor, but Faisal Attrache says it was about finding a powerful focal point.
Located in Transjordan in 1927, Of the mountain follows Syrian Druze leader Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash as he tries to support the fight against the French in exile. With the well-being of his family threatened, the famous revolutionary commander must decide how much he is prepared to sacrifice for the independence of his nation.
It took years and more of an attempt for Attrache to decide how best to frame Of the mountain, which screened as part of the short film competition at the Red Sea International Film Festival earlier this month.
The project began as a crowdfunding campaign in 2015. As a direct descendant of Al-Atrash, the Syrian-American filmmaker wanted to bring his great-grandfather’s story to the big screen of a way that shows the human aspect of the greater que-figure of life.
“He’s my father’s grandfather,” says Attrache. “He was her hero but at the same time he was a grandfather. This is why the film is so centered on the family. If anyone else had, Sultan would have been portrayed as a stereotype of the Arab hero, and that’s why I fight to do it because I have a perspective that can humanize him.
In his first attempt, Attrache identified a time in 1922 to tell the story of his great-grandfather and the revolution he led. This moment is known as the Adham Khanjar incident and marked a boiling point in the already seething relationship between the Syrians and the French colonialists.
Lebanese revolutionary who participated in an attempted assassination of Henri Gouraud, the French high commissioner in Syria and Lebanon, Khanjar sought refuge from the French with the Al-Atrash family in the region of Jabal al-Druze.
“They arrested him on his way to Sultan’s house,” said Attrache. “It was a line for Sultan. He had never met Khanjar but being his guest, the arrest broke the codes of hospitality.
The event, says Attrache, was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and spurred what has come to be known as the First Revolution – a precursor to a series of uprisings against the French.
Attrache wanted to portray the intensity of this moment, as well as its consequences, in a short film, which would have been his proof of concept for a larger feature film.
“We went into production in 2016 on this project,” explains Attrache. “We raised funds through the crowdfunding campaign. Unfortunately, it was a very difficult business, and we went over budget and didn’t shoot the whole script. It was a dark time. I tried to fundraise to finish it, but I wasn’t happy with what we shot.
So Attrache put the brakes on production, took a step back and rethought her film from scratch. “I got together and had to write a new screenplay because the funding was in place but not enough [for the Adham Khanjar story], “he says.” So I kind of worked upside down. “
It was then that Attrache chose to look at the Great Syrian Revolt from another angle. Instead of examining its push factors, Attrache instead set his sights on ending the 1925 rebellion – when more than 1,500 revolutionaries, outnumbered, outnumbered, and with supplies stranded by the British, chose not to not abandon the terms of the colonial forces and fall back instead to Saudi Arabia to bide their time.
“The Great Syrian Revolt did not only unfold from 1925 to 1927,” says Attrache. “It was from 1925 to 1927 in the action of this one. But from 1927 to 1937, Sultan and the revolutionaries were exiled and, from his point of view, they were still fighting war, still fighting revolution.
The film by Attrache focuses on the moment when his great-grandfather had to make an important decision: either to take advantage of the amnesty offered by the British and end the revolution against the French, or to go further. in exile and persevere.
“In a way, you can think of it as a fork in the road,” he says. “Let’s go back [to Jabal al-Druze] and give up our weapons? Half of the people with them took the amnesty and returned home, but 1,500 chose to continue and it was they who literally carried the revolution, who decided to continue, so symbolically they were the continuation of the revolution. .
Al-Atrash did not return to Syria until 1937. After being granted amnesty, he returned to a homeland still invaded by colonial forces. However, the fires of the movement against the French had been stoked, and in 1946, Syria would gain its independence.
“So it’s this weird thing where he loses, he loses and loses, but in a way he wins,” said Attrache. “In the end, he returned to his land, the French are still there but a whole movement against them has been created and their days are numbered.”
Attrache says he’s looking to do an anthology of works related to his father’s story. He’s still keen to bring the Adham Khanjar incident to the screen, but as a feature film.
“This would cover everything that has [Al-Atrash’s] exile [into Transjordan], “he says. Attrache says he then intends to do a series based on the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925.
“The revolt does not concern only Sultan, but other great figures in Syrian history,” said Attrache. “These are people who come together to try to drive out the French. It’s a much larger mosaic of stories. I want to make a series of it. “
Updated: December 20, 2021 8:07 AM