City Of Ghosts (18)

City Of Ghosts (18)

Directed by Matthew Heineman
Picturehouse, Liverpool
28th July – 3rd August 2017

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This documentary about the on-line reporting collective ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ (RBSS) opens with a cringeworthy moment when members of the group – called citizen journalists – are being given Press Freedom awards at the 2015 ceremony of the Committee to Protect Journalists, staged in the USA.

A woman photographer, attired in evening dress, was slightly peeved when one of the team refused to smile when asked to do so when she pointed her camera at him.

Given what RBSS had endured in reporting the atrocities committed by ISIS in Raqqa to the outside world, how could she even consider asking him to display even a hint of happiness.

A number of his colleagues, family and friends had been executed by ISIS for being associated in some way with the grouping.

RBSS, consisting of young male residents of Raqqa – no females were/are involved – began recording opposition to the Assad regime in Northern Syria in 2012.

But in 2014 ISIS took control of the city, imposing their draconian rule over the citizens.

Many of RBSS were forced to evacuate to escape the murderous rule of ISIS, ending up in Turkey and in some instances Europe, particularly Germany.

Whilst in exile they collated and rebroadcast secretly-shot footage of ISIS atrocities from inside Raqqa, taken by a small number of incredibly brave underground reporters.

A problem though in trying to enlighten the Western world and elsewhere as to what horrors were occurring in Syria was that the massacre of thousands of Raqqa inhabitants by Syrian and allied bombing, especially by the USA, was regarded by the assailants as collateral damage, in their pursuit of ISIS members.

In essence, the lives of the citizens in Raqqa did not matter.

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