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Oscar for Syrian film about war zone rescue workers

2 March 20170 comments

A short documentary about Syrian rescue workers dubbed ‘the White Helmets’, who rescue victims trapped amid the conflict, has received a nod from Tinseltown.

Syrian cousins Fadi and Khaled Khatib worked for nearly two years filming the Netflix-produced doco White Helmets, which was directed Orlando von Einsiedel – the British filmmaker who produced Skateistan.

Fadi worked as a cameraman shooting in the city of Aleppo.

“I filmed simple people – carpenters, blacksmiths, street vendors – who joined the White Helmets as volunteers,” Fadi said.

The film gives a window into the lives of the White Helmets as they scrambled to pull people from the rubble of buildings flattened in bombing raids.

The White Helmets formed in 2013, two years after the war began, and currently has about 3,300 volunteers operating in 120 rebel-held territories.

The group reports that 162 White Helmets have died in their operations to save 82,000 Syrian civilians, many of them children.

The group receives funds from several countries, including Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan and the United States.

But on Sunday night, the story of the White Helmets had the world’s attention when it was awarded the Oscar for Best Short Documentary.

“When the film got the award, I knew there was justice in the world, because these people have the hardest job in the world,” Fadi said.

Accepting the award, director Orlando von Einsiedel urged the audience to get out of their seats and call for an end to Syria’s six-year civil war, which led to a standing ovation.

Khaled Khatib was unable to attend the award ceremony after being barred from entering the US despite being granted a visa.

The five films nominated in the short documentary category all offered a moving look at humanity in peril, with three of films centring on Syria’s civil war and its refugees.

4.1 Miles is about the Greek Island of Lesbos which is 4.1 miles off the Turkish coast, and Syrian refugees are often left stranded in crowded, flimsy inflatable boats in their attempts to reach the island.

Watani: My Homeland is made from footage gathered by filmmakers who spent three years with a Syrian family in a once middle class Aleppo neighbourhood turned war zone.

White Helmets is currently streaming on Netflix or watch a trailer by clicking here.


Carissa Gilham
AMES Australia Staff Writer