Saturday, February 10, 2018

Movie with Abe: Last Men in Aleppo

Last Men in Aleppo
Directed by Feras Fayyad
Released June 27, 2017

It’s particularly awe-inspiring to watch people who are subjected daily to unpredictable, life-threatening violence run towards danger. Sadly, there are so many places in the world where defenseless populations face bombings, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters on a regular basis, and whether the international community can’t or won’t help is irrelevant since those on the ground are left to protect themselves either way. Among stories of destruction and devastation are those of true heroism, selfless acts to protect and save others.

During the Syrian Civil War, the White Helmets watch carefully as helicopters fly over ahead, always on the lookout for the next attack. When a strike or bombing occurs, they rush to the scene to save as many lives as possible. Their daily activities are relegated by a knowledge that their government may attack at any time, and everyday meetings or celebrations are often interrupted by a need to go help those who lives in neighboring areas that they have never met. The members of the White Helmets are not immune to danger and death themselves, as a number of the people interviewed in the film were killed either during production or prior to the release of the film.

The White Helmets should be familiar to anyone who has seen the British-made forty-minute Oscar-winning documentary short from 2016. This feature-length film took home the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize just before that at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and now it’s in contention to take home the Best Documentary Oscar, the first film from Syrian filmmakers to be up for the award. There are many similarities between the two, including incredible footage of a baby being rescued, and this film digs a bit deeper into the lives of three of the founding members. Explosions occur on camera and subjects frantically call out for each other, unsure if they’ve fallen victim to the latest attack.

What is accomplished here aside from a showcase of tremendous bravery and self-sacrifice is a clear demonstration of just how unconcerned with their own egos the White Helmets are. When they visit a boy that they have saved and he eagerly asks them to recount what happened, they leave feeling uncomfortable with the idea of showing off and being recognized for what they did. They wonder aloud why their Arab neighbors won’t help him and joke about going to “overthrow the regime at my place” when they need a break from exhausting some of their political energy. As a companion piece to the documentary short, this film serves as just more evidence that what these people do is truly incredible.


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