2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

last men in aleppoLAST MEN IN ALEPPO
Director Feras Fayyad and co-director Steen Johannessen chronicle the lives of Aleppo’s White Helmets, the city’s volunteer civil defense team.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

Nowhere is the human toll of Syria’s ongoing civil war more brutally manifest than in the lives of Aleppo’s “White Helmets” – first responders to the devastating bombing and terrorist attacks that have pushed this city to the brink of collapse. Volunteers Khaled, Mahmoud, and Subhi rush toward bomb sites while others run away. They search through collapsed buildings for the living and dead. Contending with fatigue, dwindling ranks, and concerns for their families’ safety, they must decide whether to stay or to flee a city in ruins.

An unforgettable portrait of reluctant heroes, LAST MEN IN ALEPPO employs a strict vérité approach but unfolds like a classical tragedy. A collaboration between Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad, Danish filmmaker Steen Johannessen, and the Aleppo Media Center, it’s a patchwork of resonant moments – some horrifying (pulling lifeless infants from the rubble), others improbably hopeful (playing a makeshift soccer game, building a fishpond, driving kids to a playground during a ceasefire). Together they are a testament to mankind’s capacity for unspeakable atrocity and an ode to courage and compassion.

Some Background:

  • Feras Fayyad
    Syrian filmmaker Fayyad has previously directed and/or edited several documentary projects, but this marks his first Sundance film.


  • Steen Johannessen
    Past Sundance docs:

    PUTIN’S KISS (2012, editor)

    Danish filmmaker Johannessen has an extensive career as a documentary editor, but this is his directorial debut.


  • Søren Steen Jespersen
    Jespersen is an experienced producer whose directorial debut, WARRIORS FROM THE NORTH, was awarded at Hot Docs. This is his first project at Sundance.


  • Kareem Abeed
    Abeed represents the Aleppo Media Center, a collective of journalists based in Syria reporting on events in the country and the larger region.

  • Stefan Kloos
    Past Sundance docs:


    Kloos is the head of German production and distribution company Kloos & Co.

Why You Should Watch:
Fayyad, working closely with the Aleppo Media Center, clearly established a close rapport with his courageous subjects, allowing intensely intimate access both to the White Helmets’ dangerous work and their quieter personal lives. The resulting film offers audiences a rare immersion into the war-torn Aleppo before its recent fall. The doc is one of three at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival – together with CITY OF GHOSTS and CRIES FROM SYRIA – offering multiple perspectives on the Syrian civil war.

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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