The White Helmets: Documentary Review


This is the sixth year of the Syrian War. Millions have fled their homes and there have been more than 400,000 deaths. Hope is no longer a word tossed around lightly and many have lost their confidence in it. However, others have indoctrinated it as the basis for the end of this devastating war. They are the White Helmets.

The 2016 documentary “White Helmets” follows a group of around 3,000 civilians (of the same name) who risk their lives every day to save the people in need. Every day, these rescue workers go out into the aftermath of airstrikes, smoky debris and dig out the dead or injured from the rubble. Orlando von Einsiedel captures the heroism exercised daily by these civilians. One of the 60,000 people they have saved is Omran Daqneesh, who made headlines in late August after footage was released of the shell-shocked, blood covered child that later became the face of suffering in Aleppo.

It is necessary to remember that these White Helmets are regular citizens. Those who have died for this cause die nameless, overshadowed by the growing number of deaths. It is hard to imagine the trauma and horrors that they voluntarily experience. And yet, they will stop at nothing to save another human life. Hope is their motivation and to them, every child, woman and man saved is hope. For the past three years, this ideal never faltered.

However, there remains a major downside to Einsiedel’s portrayal of the White Helmets. Throughout this documentary, it becomes very evident that there is an underlying one-sided political message shaping our perceptions of the Syrian war. Not once is the US involvement in this war acknowledged, let alone brought up, even though the US has been a major player in the war since 2011 and has been bombing targets in Syria through NATO for nearly three years now. The documentary seemed to mainly focus on Russia’s involvement in the war, at some point stated as equal to ISIS’ horrors. The lack of acknowledgment of the US’ intervention, regardless of whether or not it is as intense as Russia’s, takes away from the film’s credibility.

Perhaps the film’s importance is that it sheds light on a deserving group active in the Syrian War, despite its lack of crucial information that can shape the perception of its audience. George Clooney’s fictional adaptation of this documentary accounts for all sides of the war as it is crucial to the understanding of those less informed of this devastating war.