BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the early scenes of the Syrian documentary “Our Terrible Country,” the leftist writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh explores the ruins of a rebellious Damascus suburb, his clean-shaven face, Lenin-style cap and pristine clothes marking him as a recent arrival from the mostly intact government-controlled downtown.
The camera and the man behind it, a young photographer and sometime insurgent calling himself Ziad al-Homsi, approach Mr. Saleh with reverence. It is mid-2013, two years into Syria’s revolt. Hopes for easy victory over President Bashar al-Assad are long gone, yet Mr. Saleh still has far more skin in the game than his peers, the old-school, prewar dissidents who mainly squabble in exile as younger Syrians like Mr. Homsi run the risks.
At 53, Mr. Saleh, who spent 16 years of his youth in prison, suffering torture, has just moved with his wife, Samira Khalil, to the working-class suburb, Douma. Staying in Syria, alongside those enduring daily government bombardments, is the “obvious” choice, he said.