Friday, 28 April 2017

LAST MEN IN ALEPPO - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2017 HotDocs Hot Pick - Do NOT Miss This!

NOTE: If your government is not allowing Syrian refugees into your country, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! If you believe Syrian refugees should NOT be allowed into your country, you are an ASSHOLE. If after seeing this film, Last Men in Aleppo, you feel the same way about Syrian refugees or, frankly, any refugees from war-torn and/or repressive regimes, you are clearly BRAIN DEAD.
The child is awake. The child is alive.
You can thank Allah, the God of Abraham or Jesus Christ,
but mostly, you should be thanking
The "White Helmets" of Syria.
Last Men in Aleppo (2017)
Dir. Feras Fayyad

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The bodies of battered, crushed babies removed from under rubble. The love in a father's eyes as he Skypes with his little girl before he dies. Children happily playing outside during a cease-fire until the threat of bombings, in spite of the cease-fire, paralyzes them with fear. A sweet, young man staring blankly after retrieving corpses and body parts from a missile strike site. The planes and helicopters of a Syrian dictator and his dirty Russian allies whooshing over a decimated city as they look for large groups of innocent, unarmed civilians to target.

These and so many other images are branded into my memory banks. I cannot shake them. I'm still shuddering and feeling tears welling up in my eyes. After all the movies I've seen in my life, well over 40,000 of them, I suspect that Last Men in Aleppo will hold a place in my very soul. (And if truth be told, even trying to write about this film inspires the emotions that the film instilled within me.)

This is a documentary portrait of Syria's "White Helmets" - firemen, paramedics and other rescue workers who volunteer (with their very lives in many cases), to search through the carnage of fresh bomb strikes in the city of Aleppo to save those still breathing and to retrieve the remains of those who are dead. Shot in 2015 and adhering with considerable rigour to the style of Cinéma Direct, it follows two primary subjects - Khaled, a burly, gregarious family man (obsessed with raising goldfish in an outdoor fountain amidst the carnage around him) and Mahmoud, a young man who seems utterly fearless yet is, in fact, continually terrified that his baby brother (who works with him) will be killed in the line of (volunteer) duty.

From beginning to end, the cameras are up close and personal with both men - through both their harrowing, dangerous, often deadly rescue missions and their private lives. These are people who love their city and country (in spite of the fuckwads running/ruining it) and it's made clear time and time again, they will stay or die. Most importantly they are wholly devoted to preserving human life after repeated attacks upon the city.

The movie is so plunged into the thick of the madness and chaos of this civil war (masqueraded as such on behalf of Syria's official government of dictatorship) that as we watch the film, we are not only on the edge of our seats with respect to the safety of the men onscreen, but we're equally fearful for the filmmakers.

And make no mistake, this is NOT journalism/war correspondence.


Director Fayas Fayyad, co-director/co-editor Steen Johannessen, cinematographer Fadi Al Halabi, Sound Recordist Morten Groth Brandt and the entire team have not only risked life and limb to bring this vital story to the screen, but have done so with the most vivid artistic aplomb. You know you are watching a documentary, the real thing (so to speak), but so often you forget all notions of this and feel like you're watching an edge-of-the-seat action film that is putting every mega-budgeted Hollywood nonsense generated, machine-tooled by poseurs, to utter shame. The film's structure is, miraculously, sheer drama of the best kind.

It's thrilling, exciting, terrifying, sad and sickening. And ultimately, it is so very, deeply and profoundly moving. Last Men in Aleppo is a masterpiece and will, as time marches forward be regarded as a classic of brave, brilliant cinema.


Last Men in Aleppo enjoys its Canadian Premiere at Hot Docs 2017.