Montreal International Documentary Festival

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RIDM 21 Nov. - 01 Dec. 2024

Focus Bidayyat: New Beginnings

For its 26th edition, the Montreal International Documentary Festival returns with a new territorial Focus. This year, we look toward Syria through Bidayyat. This program will consist of five screenings, three panels and a Masterclass.

Bidayyat is a Beirut-based Syrian production hub founded in the early days of the Syrian revolution. It was established with the intention of training young people in a tradition of Syrian and regional experimental documentary in order to tell the stories of ordinary lives in Syria during a time of revolution and war. Bidayyat has mentored dozens of young media activists, filmmakers, and writers, helping them produce over 50 shorts, 8 internationally acclaimed feature documentaries, and more than 100 online publications.

As Bidayyat now shifts its perspective from revolutionary production hub to revolutionary archive, Focus Bidayyat: New Beginnings spotlights innovative and award-winning films produced by, or in conversation with, Bidayyat. These creative documentaries pioneered new cinematic languages, responding to the rapid proliferation of affordable digital cameras and cellphone video used by Syrian citizens to document the reality and legitimacy of their revolt. They bear witness to the transformation of the lives of millions of Syrians by revolution and war.

Presented in collaboration with World Records, the critical journal of nonfiction media, this year’s Focus highlights many of the concerns and challenges that drive the cinema of Bidayyat: asserting the legitimacy of Syria’s revolutionary revolt; expanding the categories of director and auteur for young filmmakers and writers working on new terms; justly representing the scale of the unfolding catastrophe in Syria with dignity; documenting and preserving private histories and connections between family members and communities as Syrians were forced into exile; and collaborating across generational and political lines in the service of a revolutionary and dissident cinema.

This series is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and McGill University’s Critical Media Lab.



Focus Bidayyat : New Beginnings
Two dissidents embark on a perilous journey from Damascus to Raqqa and then into exile in Turkey as Syria tumbles into the abyss.


  • Ziad Homsi, Mohammad Ali Atassi
  • 2014
  • Lebanon, Syria
  • s.t. English
  • 80 min
Focus Bidayyat : New Beginnings
Two art students living a carefree life in Damascus decide to join the Syrian revolution by moving to Douma, a working-class suburb under rebel rule.


  • Saeed Albatal, Ghiath Ayoub
  • 2018
  • Lebanon, Syria, France, Germany
  • s.t. English
  • 120 min
November 17, 2023 Focus Bidayyat : New Beginnings

Panel : Intimate Histories / Interior Documentary

Many of the nonfiction films produced during the Syrian revolution offer intimate histories, picturing familial, domestic, and intergenerational bonds...

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November 18, 2023 Focus Bidayyat : New Beginnings

Panel : Demanding Dignity

How can images and video, shared locally or across the globe, support revolutionary Syria’s struggle to overthrow a brutal regime? Should images of...

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November 19, 2023 Focus Bidayyat : New Beginnings

Panel : Generations

Many of the nonfiction films produced during the Syrian revolution document private histories, depicting familial, domestic, and intergenerational...

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November 20, 2023 Masterclass

Qutaiba Barhamji: Making Sense of Images in the Editing Room

To better understand the motivations behind images in the editing room, this masterclass with editor-director Qutaiba Barhamji will explore how to...

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