More than 300,000 people have been killed since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, and nearly five million have fled the war-torn country and are now refugees. These five documentaries help put a human face on the tragedy. The heroism and shown by the White Helmets and activists who are smuggling out videos of war crimes are astounding, but so is learning that so many refugees still have hope for a better life and for peace in their homeland.
1. The White Helmets (2016)
This heart-in-throat Oscar-winning short documentary follows the brave men who risk their lives to rescue those caught in the endless bombing in Syria. Their motto: “To save a life is to save all of humanity.” It ends with this note: Since 2013,130 White Helmets have been killed, but in that same time, they have saved over 58,000 lives. (Netflix)
2. #ChicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes On A Dictator (2013)
If you ever needed proof one person can make a difference, witness teen Alaa Basatneh, who organizes protests on the ground in Syria from her home in Chicago. With the information blackout imposed by the current regime, she often knows more about what’s going on there then many of the residents. She also uploads crucial videos of the brutality and protests. She’s received death threats but perseveres: “When the regime does finally fall, these videos will hold them accountable,” she says. (Netflix)
3. Salam Neighbor (2015)
The guys who made Living on One Dollar, Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci, were the first filmmakers allowed by the United Nations to register and live inside a refugee camp. Inside Jordan’s Za’atari camp with 85,000 Syrian refugees, just miles from the Syrian border, they learn heartbreaking stories of loss and bridge cultural barriers. (Netflix, Vimeo)
4. I Want to Live (2015)
This moving documentary is told through the eyes of a 16-year-old Kurdish refugee, Shndar. He lives in a camp in Kurdistan with his father, who is deaf and mute. He desperately needs surgery and, thanks to this film, he and family were able to relocate to Belfast, Ireland, where he’s receiving treatment. Director Karzan Kardozi says it’s not a message film, but “a meditation on life, death, war, peace and tolerance.” (YouTube, Vimeo)
5. Aleppo. Notes from the Dark (2014)
In the summer of 2013, the filmmakers shot for 44 days in Aleppo and captured the daily life of seven residents—including a journalist, a street vendor, a cleric and a doctor—amidst the harsh realities of constant bombings and sniper attacks. It’s a harrowing film that doesn’t shy away from showing the horrors of war. (Amazon, Daily Motion)
Sharon Knolle is a film noir buff, dog lover and founder of Moviepaws.com. You can follow her on Twitter.