“Last Men in Aleppo,” a film focusing on the work of the White Helmets in Syria received on Saturday night the grand jury prize in the World Cinema documentary competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
The film, made by Syrian filmmaker Firas Fayyad and Steen Johannessen, a filmmaker from Denmark, tells the story of the White Helmets, a group of ordinary citizens who have organized themselves into a civil emergency service, rushing to the scenes of bombings to try to rescue the victims of the Assad regime and Russian aerial bombardment.
The continuing conflict in Syria was high on the agenda at the Sundance Film Festival this year. In addition to Last Men in Aleppo, two other films – Cries from Syria, City of Ghosts, were featured in the festival.
City of Ghosts, directed by American filmmaker Matthew Heineman, explores the work of the citizen journalists of Raqqa, who formed a group known as “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” in their struggle to combat the propaganda machine of the ISIS extremist group which controls the city.
Russian-born Evgeny Afineevsky also offers a comprehensive view of the Syrian conflict, with a particular focus on the impact on children. His film, Cries from Syria, begins with a piece of schoolyard graffiti in the city of Dara’a, for which the teenage culprit and his friends were rounded up by the regime and tortured, sparking public protests. He then traces the escalation of the violence, taking in the rise of ISIS, the involvement of the Russians and the flow of refugees from the country.
Jurors said that Last Mean in Aleppo was an undoubtedly extraordinary film about real heroes showing increasingly more compassion, humanity and courage under almost impossible conditions. It is a mix between the makers’ commitment to showing courage and fearlessness as well as the valor of fathers, brothers and friends who see Syria as their top priority, they added.
In 2014, Syrian director Talal Derki won a main prize for his film Return to Homs.
The Sundance Film Festival is an American film festival and is the largest independent film festival in the United States. The festival is a showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers. The festival comprises competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature films and short films. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies)