Last Men in Aleppo, Director – Feras Fayyad

Not surprisingly there were several films at this year’s festival that dealt with the Syrian civil war. Last Men in Aleppo was one of the best, describing the work of the White Helmet volunteers who have been doing rescue work for the residents trapped in the city. Aleppo has been the target of bombing attacks from both the Russians and the Syrian government the White Helmets go to the bombing sites and work to rescue survivors. The film is long, maybe longer than necessary but its portrayal of life in a war zone is difficult to watch. We hear about this conflict but do not get many opportunities to understand what life is like under the constant risk of bombings or the kind of sacrifice people make to recover from these attacks. It is very much a verité style film so no particular comment is made about the political situation but it does follow a small group of men who participate in the rescue work and their attempts to live something like a normal life in very abnormal conditions. You do develop a connection to these men as the events unfold before you. The White Helmets have been a controversial organization. They have been accused by the Russians and the Syrian government of being a front for the rebels and terrorists and far from politically neutral. Much of this has been debunked and the group continues to do its work to preserve what they can of their city and their lives. Definitely worth seeing to help understand what is happening in the Middle East.