Rated R. Running time: 41 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 5; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 0.
Our star rating (1-5): 5
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
We are indebted to Netflix for making documentarian Orlando von Einsiedel’s short film so widely available to the public. This Academy Award-winning film witnesses to the bright and the dark side of what humans are capable of—the brutal savagery of the Syrian leader and his Russian supporters as they relentlessly target civilians and rebel fighters alike with their ruthless bombing, and the bravery and compassion of the men who wear the white helmets that give the film its name. These men are not soldiers, but men who have volunteered to rush to the scene of a bombing and pull out of the rubble the victims. We see that some once were rebel soldiers, but sickened by the violence, laid down their weapons and joined those who were saving lives rather than taking them. Indeed, it is White Helmet Mohammed Farah who states, “Better to rescue a soul than to take one.”
It was cinematographer Khaled Khatib, press officer for the Syrian White Helmets, whose work drew the attention of Mr. von Einsiedel, so that the latter equipped him with better cameras, technical training, and financial backing so that a film could be put together. Mr. Khatid has said, “I took a camera and started volunteering for (them) because I wanted the world to know what the White Helmets are doing and what is happening in Syria.” He follows numerous White Helmets as they rush to bombing sights, and as they spend time in safety at a training school in southern Turkey learning rescue techniques and how to use the tools provided them. Here are just a few of them who tell their stories in the interviews:
-Mohammad Danawer, 24. Was in his third year studying math at university. “The regime bombed a refugee camp. We saved so many people, but I mostly remember an old lady, who had an injured leg. It bothered me, because you should be safe at a refugee camp.”
-Abdulrahman Humaidi, 20. Carpenter. “I was in a village near Salqeen. A missile hit the upper floor of a building and it collapsed. We pulled a 40-year-old man out and his family was thanking us and hugging and kissing, until they realized that his wife and two children died in the attack.” Abdulrahman has 4 brothers, all of whom have also joined the White Helmets.
-Mohammad Faisal Hammade, 41. Ministry of Agriculture. “They dropped a thermobaric bomb in the village of Sinkar. It hit a house and divided into two parts, one destroyed and one not. I can’t describe the feeling that came over me when we found a mother and two children alive, especially since we had such a hard time getting to them.”
-Yamen Yoused, 27. Construction. “Two days before I came to this course, I rescued a 2-year-old baby. His dad told me where he was trapped and buried. We went and found him alive, but his 14-year-old sister had died.”
-Mohammad Ata Rashwani, 44. Hospital administration. “We were in a village called Kastim and rescued a man whose entire lower half was buried. A missile hit a car outside the shop he was in. We took him to the hospital and he lived.” Mohammad joined the White Helmets five days after his son was killed working the very same job.
-Abdulkareem Qaddour, 20. Was in high school. “A barrel bomb dropped near my best friend. He had shrapnel in his head, neck and chest. I took him by ambulance to the hospital, but he died on his way to the operating room.”
-Hussain Alassi, 25. Was about to start college. “We rescued a family of three in the village of Mazra, a little 6-year-old girl, plus her father and mother. It was a huge building, and the whole second floor had collapsed on the first. We finally found them, cut a hole in the wall and took them to the hospital.”
This memorable film alone would make your investment in a Netflix subscription worthwhile! The volunteers constantly risking their lives for the sake of others may be Muslims, but they share the same ethical values found in the Psalms or Matthew 25!
This review with a set of questions will be in the April 2017 issue of VP.