POV: Last Men in Aleppo

About This Episode

The year is 2015. Syria's brutal civil war has been ravaging the country since the government responded with force to civil protests during the Arab Spring in 2011. Regime, Kurdish, ISIS and rebel forces all occupy various parts of the city of Aleppo in northwestern Syria. A volunteer group called the White Helmets provides emergency services to traumatized residents in the rebel-occupied areas of the city. A crucial part of their efforts is rescuing survivors: After air attacks reduce buildings to rubble, the men of the White Helmets dig through the debris and pull survivors to safety. They are nothing short of heroes.

Captured with incredible intimacy and urgency, Last Men in Aleppo shows the White Helmets at work in the wake of bombing raids. The film provides exceptional access. Volunteers wear microphones for the filming, and viewers can hear them as they share information, give directions and pray. When they learn of a raid, they speed through chaotic streets full of rubble. They dig through piles of concrete and metal, sometimes using construction equipment, other times their bare hands.

The viewing is often visceral and difficult. The cameras are unflinching as they document the extraction of dead bodies, including those of children. Survivors are badly injured and covered in blood. There is grim talk of body parts, of how many survived and how many died. In these painful moments, the men of the White Helmets reveal their resilience and bravery in the face of daily carnage.