The filming of Syria's first black & white feature film Al-Mutaham al-Barii in 1927

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The film “Al-Mutaham al-Barii” (The Innocent Accused) was produced in 1927 and released in 1928, one year after Egypt released its first feature film. The idea was brainchild of three Syrian cinema fans: Ayyub Badri, Ahmad Tello, and Mohammad Muradi. They imported a camera from Germany via the merchant Nazem al-Shamaa, but were unable to use it, as none of them had any experience in filming. As a result, they brought along the photographer Rashid Jalal to work the camera and write the script, making him a production partner. Ayyub Badri was the main sponsor, which entitled him to act in the film, taking on the lead role. The production company was registered under the name, “Hermon Films.” The film had no director. The story took place during the era of King Faisal (1918-1920) when a group of thieves terrorized society in Damascus. The film was shot in caves surrounding Mount Qassiun and in the home of Rashid Jalal in the Muhajireen neighborhood of Damascus. With its spacious rooms, the residence was transformed into an amateur studio. The major blow was that upon completion, French censors banned the film, because it featured a young 25-year old Syrian first-time actress. They claimed that conservative Muslim society would never allow it, and blame the French Mandate authority for featuring a Muslim girl on screen. They were forced to re-shoot the film, replacing the Syrian actress with a German cabaret dancer in Damascus named Lovatina. The film premiered at the Cosmograph Cinema in Marjeh Square, behind the present Omar al-Khayyam Hotel. It was a block-buster, forcing the French to station police at its entrance to regulate traffic and passer-bys. The film was featured at cinemas all over Damascus and in Aleppo, Homs, Latakia, Beirut, and Tripoli.