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5 Best Documentaries About Syria

These documentaries about Syria show a country that has become synonymous with conflict, tragedy, and human suffering on a devastating scale.

The country’s ongoing civil war, which erupted in 2011, has led to a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, displacing millions of people, causing widespread destruction, and claiming countless lives. Documentaries about Syria show the complexities of this conflict, shedding light on its origins, its impact on civilians, and the various parties involved.


Documentaries About Syria

Through gripping storytelling, powerful imagery, and firsthand accounts, these documentaries give you a deeper understanding of the multifaceted dimensions of the Syrian crisis.

On a personal note, I travelled to Syria in 2008 before the cilil war and met some of the most friendly people I have met in all of my travels, and a beautiful country full of a rich history. It’s truly a tradegy what has happened there and my heart goes out to all those who have suffered and the friends that I made when there.


City of Ghosts (2017)

“City of Ghosts” is a powerful and gripping documentary directed by Matthew Heineman. The film follows the journey of citizen journalists from the Syrian city of Raqqa who form the group “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” (RBSS). Facing immense danger and risking their lives, these activists document and expose the atrocities committed by ISIS as they attempt to control the city.

The documentary provides a harrowing and intimate look at the lives of the RBSS members, highlighting the personal sacrifices they make in their fight against extremism and censorship. Through interviews, footage captured by the activists, and reenactments, “City of Ghosts” sheds light on the brutal realities faced by those living under ISIS rule and the resilience of those who dare to speak out.

The film not only explores the dangers faced by the RBSS members in Syria but also the challenges they encounter as they seek refuge in neighboring countries and attempt to continue their work in exile. “City of Ghosts” serves as a reminder of the importance of journalism in exposing human rights abuses and bearing witness to injustice, even in the face of unimaginable danger.


For Sama (2019)

“For Sama” is a profoundly moving and intimate documentary directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The film is a personal account of Al-Kateab’s experiences as a young mother living through the battle of Aleppo during the Syrian civil war.

Filmed over the course of five years, “For Sama” takes you on a journey through the chaos, devastation, and hope that defined life in Aleppo. Al-Kateab captures the everyday struggles, joys, and heartbreaks of her family and fellow residents as they navigate the horrors of war. Through her lens, you witness the resilience and strength of the Syrian people in the face of unimaginable adversity.

One of the most poignant aspects of “For Sama” is its portrayal of motherhood amidst conflict. Al-Kateab grapples with the impossible choice of whether to flee to safety with her young daughter Sama or remain in Aleppo to document the atrocities unfolding around her. Her love for her daughter becomes a driving force behind her determination to bear witness to the suffering of her people and fight for a better future.

The documentary offers a deeply personal perspective on the Syrian conflict, humanizing the headlines and statistics that often dominate news coverage. Through Al-Kateab’s storytelling and raw footage, “For Sama” captures the human cost of war and the enduring hope for peace and justice.


The White Helmets (2016)

“The White Helmets” is an Oscar-winning documentary directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. The film provides a gripping portrayal of the volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets who operate in war-torn Syria.

The documentary follows the daily lives of these brave individuals as they risk their own lives to save civilians trapped in the rubble of bombings, airstrikes, and other atrocities committed during the Syrian civil war. With cameras strapped to their helmets, the White Helmets capture dramatic footage of their rescue missions, offering a firsthand look at their extraordinary efforts to provide aid and hope in the midst of chaos and destruction.

Through interviews with the White Helmets themselves and footage of their rescue operations, the documentary highlights the heroism, compassion, and humanity of these ordinary citizens turned extraordinary rescuers. It sheds light on the immense challenges they face, from navigating through dangerous war zones to dealing with limited resources and overwhelming devastation.

“The White Helmets” also explores the personal sacrifices made by these volunteers, including the toll on their own mental and emotional well-being as they witness the suffering and loss of their fellow Syrians. Despite the dangers and hardships they encounter, the White Helmets remain steadfast in their commitment to saving lives and providing hope for a better future.

The documentary received widespread acclaim for its powerful storytelling and impactful portrayal of the Syrian conflict. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 2017, bringing international attention to the vital humanitarian work of the White Helmets and the ongoing crisis in Syria.


Last Men in Aleppo (2017)

“Last Men in Aleppo” is a gut-wrenching documentary directed by Feras Fayyad. The film is another one that offers a raw and unflinching portrayal of the daily struggles faced by the White Helmets as they work to rescue civilians amidst the devastating conflict in Aleppo.

Through intimate interviews and harrowing footage captured on the ground, “Last Men in Aleppo” provides a deeply personal perspective on the toll of war on both the rescuers and the rescued. Viewers witness the White Helmets’ tireless efforts to navigate through rubble and debris to save lives, often risking their own safety in the process.

The documentary also delves into the emotional and psychological impact of the conflict on the volunteers, as they grapple with the trauma of witnessing death and destruction on a daily basis. Despite the overwhelming challenges they face, the White Helmets demonstrate unwavering dedication and courage in their mission to provide aid and hope to their fellow Syrians.

“Last Men in Aleppo” captures the devastation of the Syrian civil war with heartbreaking honesty, immersing viewers in the harsh realities faced by those caught in the midst of violence and upheaval. It serves as a powerful testament to the resilience and humanity of ordinary individuals who refuse to give up in the face of unimaginable adversity.


Syria: Children on the Frontline (2014)

“Syria: Children on the Frontline” is a heartbreaking documentary directed by Marcel Mettelsiefen. The film provides a poignant portrayal of the impact of the Syrian civil war on the lives of children living in Aleppo, one of the most heavily contested cities in the conflict.

Through interviews and candid footage captured on the ground, “Syria: Children on the Frontline” offers a glimpse into the daily struggles and resilience of Syrian children as they navigate the chaos and violence of war. You witness the profound psychological and emotional toll of the conflict on these young lives, as they cope with loss, displacement, and the constant threat of danger.

The documentary also sheds light on the remarkable courage and strength exhibited by the children and their families as they strive to survive and maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the turmoil. Despite the unimaginable challenges they face, these children demonstrate remarkable resilience and hope for a better future.

The film received critical acclaim for its powerful storytelling and was nominated for numerous awards, including a BAFTA TV Award for Best Single Documentary.


Syria

These documentaries about Syria offer valuable insights into the Syrian conflict, showcasing the human stories behind the headlines and providing a deeper understanding of the crisis’s complexities.

For more on the region have a look at the 10 best documentaries about Turkey.


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