In March 2011, anti-government protests broke out in Syria, emboldened by the Arab Spring uprisings in neighboring countries. Peaceful protests were met with violent crackdowns and arrests by Assad regime thugs and the Syrian security forces. Many soldiers defected and ordinary men and women became heroes defending their struggle for freedom. However, no one could have predicted the death, destruction and chaos that would ensue in the following years. The Assad regime responded by ruthlessly bombing and destroying opposition neighborhood, towns and entire cities. They kidnapped, tortured and arrested tens of thousands, many of whom are still unaccounted for. They did not distinguish between man or woman, elder or child. More than 200,000 have been killed. Within the last couple years, Islamic extremists have emerged, fighting to impose their hardcore views and beliefs in the now lawless land. They fight the Syrian regime as well as the fragile opposition that remains. Although the vast majority of Syrians oppose their rule, they have been forced to become their subjects as the world has effectively turned their backs on these helpless people. As it stands, the Assad regime ruthlessly protects what little parts of Syria it controls, ISIS has expanded its terror and is fighting a half-hearted offensive by a coalition of nations, while more than 12 million Syrians have been displaced inside and outside of Syria. The refugee crisis in the World today is the worst it’s been since World War II.

That is an oversimplified summary of the last four years in Syrian history. Words cannot begin to describe the horrendous despair that has plagued this beautiful country, the cradle of civilization, and its people.


I was born in Syria and grew up in the United States. I am Syrian-American by my own definition. When the protests broke out in 2011 I was living in Damascus, the Syrian capital. It was a short-lived period of excitement and hope. Within a few months I would return to the United States to start my MFA, and Syria would begin its descent into destruction. As I watched from afar I wondered what role I could play and how could I do my part to help the Syrian people, or at least help make their voices heard? The biggest visible effect of the conflict in Syria (besides the obvious death and destruction) was the vast number of refugees pouring across borders and migrating from city to city. Neighboring countries received the majority of the displaced and refugee camps were set up in some of them, the largest being the Zaatari Camp in Northern Jordan.

I wanted to focus
on the refugee crisis because it is an issue that will outlast the war, and I worried about how the refugee crisis was going to affect the future generations of Syrian children. With that in mind, I came across an image of a Syrian barber cutting hair in a make-shift tent barber shop. His resourcefulness amazed me, and I never even considered how refugees went about their day to day tasks, simply trying to survive and get on. I wanted to talk to these barbers and hear their stories. They provided their communities with a sense of normalcy and the fundamental human need to cut their hair when it grows too long. Barbers are close to their community’s pulse and are focal points of it. I gathered a group of fellow USC film students, we launched a successful crowd-funding campaign, and then headed out to the Zaatari camp in August of 2013 to make our film.

Growing Home shows you what it might be like if your life was suddenly uprooted and you were forced to make a new home in a refugee camp in the desert. It shows the will and determination of these individuals to make decent lives for themselves despite the odds being against them. When you watch this film, keep in mind that Samer could be you or your brother or neighbor or friend, and remember that these refugees may never be able to return to their homes without the support of the capable and willing people of the world.

Faisal Attrache




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