Documentaries

The White Helmets

I admire many things, and as you can tell from my writing, powerful images are one of them. It’s been a while since I have seen anything as powerful as The White Helmets. Despite being heavy (more on that later), and in subtitles, this is a documentary for even the most sitcom driven viewers.

This documentary immediately put me right there on the ground of Aleppo City in the midst of air raids, as is what documentaries are supposed to. As I watched, I was hit with wave after wave of emotion. There was no end to the hook it placed on my attention from the get go. It constantly drove me back to reality and it is impossible to remove yourself from the story.

Orlando von Einsiedel shows true talent in displaying excellent portraits of men being heroes. Heroes is not a word to be used lightly. True heroism means something else to every person. Digging through a collapsed building for 16 hours, through darkness, to retrieve a new-born baby buried and crying under the rubble is true heroism to me. The portraits that are exhibited of these rescuers are inspiring.

I don’t write on politics, but I asked myself a political question as I watched this and the answer made me chuckle: What if we moved to a more well put together message, like this documentary, for our regular news? Then, inevitably, I thought ‘it would be faked’. The contemplation slipped to the back of my mind. After finishing the film, as I did some research to write a review, I came across this Washington Post article on Russia’s attempts to discredit the film. The article was a well put together rebuttal defending the Post’s mother company’s asset.

I am left with so many of the scenes playing over and over again in my mind. A man who doesn’t know if his brother survived is captured in very potent frames. There was a thud of truth when he said, “I feel cold” and put on his jacket. The sight of the bombs falling in slow motion left everything feeling weightless. However, I don’t believe I have ever watched anything as heavy. Whether you watch this or not should depend upon whether you are prepared to allow the gravity of the situation into the room.

This was a refreshing documentary, and I am glad it found me to say the least. White Helmets is a succinct and powerful film which should be highly regarded. There is no question that it deserved the Oscar. I may not have the energy to watch it again, however.

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