Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen


Director & Writer: Firas Fayyad
Producers: Kareem Abeed and Soeren Steen Jespersen
Cinematography: Fadi Al Halabi and Mujahed Abou Al Joud
Editors: Michael Bauer and Steen Johannessen
Composer: Karsten Fundal
Distributors: Grasshopper Film
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Run-time: 104 minutes

FILM SYNOPSIS: The White Helmets, a civilian rescue squad operating in Syria, dig through rubble to find bombing survivors and retrieve bodies of the deceased. Some of the first responders are separated from their families, while others worry about loved ones still in Aleppo. Despite their fears for the future, three of the group’s founders remain dedicated to their life-saving work.

“Last Men In Aleppo” effected me deeply. The imagery in the documentary is so raw, so uncensored, and so devastating that it leaves a lasting impression well after the credits roll. And the biggest thing to me is the fact that I never really even knew this was going on. Sure, I could follow the news a little closer, but even so, I’m well aware of other conflicts happening around the world, but this one was completely new to me.

Aleppo is a city in Syria that, during the duration of this film, was involved in a civil war. The film focuses on the ordinary civilian men that have taken it upon themselves to be first responders to bomb droppings, fires, and anyone need medical attention in relation to the fighting. These men call themselves The White Helmets and they are internationally known for their heroic work. They also had a documentary short titled “The White Helmets” nominated for an Academy Award last year. So lot’s of attention have been placed on these men. Unfortunately, as the film shows, many of them give the ultimate sacrifice while in the line of duty, leaving behind family and friends. Leaving the other men to fight on and to question whether they should stay to help, or leave like everyone else, getting their families into safety.

One of the first images in the film that you see is a dead baby being pulled from the rubble of a bombing. These bombs are actually being dropped during a truce, as the men watch news reports highlighting the truce minutes after coming from pulling injured and dead from collapsed buildings. Once you read further into the conflict, you see that the side dropping the bombs, some of which are definitely of a particular type, deny using those special types of bombs, despite their being cinematic proof in this documentary that they are in fact using them. All of these images and facts lead you down a road of being very upset and heartbroken by this conflict. Putting yourself in the shoes of these men and just normal Aleppo civilians is enough to keep you up at time. The imagery in this film had be in tears from beginning to end.

How this doesn’t win Best Documentary Feature, I do not know, because it evokes such a strong response that I will never be able to forget this film. “Face Places,” the front-runner according to pundits, is a cute film but it does not pack the punch that “Last Men In Aleppo” does. Will that punch probably turn some people off, definitely. But hopefully enough people rally behind it (remember, “The White Helmets” short just got nominated last year) to give it the win it deserves.

As stated previously, I look for a Best Documentary Feature contender to show me something I could never see as a civilian, something behind the curtain, if you will and/or make me feel something towards a particular event or group of people/animals/what have you. “Last Men In Aleppo” does both of those things extremely well. It shows you the frontline of what people are dealing with in Aleppo and in doing so, makes you feel strongly for these people and the horrific acts that are occurring to them. As with almost every category of the Oscars, I look for the film or performance that I’ll remember decades from now and no other documentary this year will stick with me like “Last Men In Aleppo” has.



VIEWED: Wednesday
January 31st, 2018



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