“I swear nobody cares about anybody anymore” expresses a sullen man in one of the many sobering moments in Feras Fayyad’s breathtaking documentary Last Men in Aleppo. The man is one of the White Helmet, volunteers in Syria who serve as rescue workers and fireman, a thankless job whose value to those they save is beyond words. These are men who view the sights of bomber jets in the sky, smoke off in the distance, and the sound of bombs going off as their rallying call to action.
Equally stunning and horrifying, Fayyad’s film is an eye-opening view of the Syrian War through the lenses of two different White Helmets. Khaled is a father who holds out faint hope that the violence that is ravishing the city he has spent his whole life in will end. Mahmoud on the other hand is more pragmatic about the future and the notion that death is knocking on their door. Though their views might be different, they have endured the same physical and emotional toll that the war has brought.
Faced with fresh bomb sites and mass destruction on a daily basis, Fayyad shows that there is little for the men to be joyful about. They are living in hell, one where finding a baby alive beneath piles of rubble only reminds them of the many dead ones they have pulled out. Last Men in Aleppo celebrates heroism and humanity in the face of constant danger in a captivating way. Fayyad’s unflinching camera captures the draining repetitious role of the White Helmet volunteers in heartbreaking fashion. He presents these men not as praise seeking heroes, but as people who cannot idly standby and watch the nightmarish Syrian war consume the innocent.
Thursday, April 27, 6:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, April 28, 3:00 PM, Isabel Bader
Sunday, May 7, 6:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.