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Syria: The Last Men in Aleppo

Syria: The Last Men in Aleppo

Apr 30, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews


Syria is an abysmal Hell, a fetid, roiling cauldron of man’s inhumanity to man. The intrigue and entanglements are intricate and have global ramifications. The old axion about the scorpion and the frog is so fitting. The scorpion asks the frog to take him across the river. Half way across the scorpion stings the frog. The frog asks, “Why did you sting me, now we will both drown?” The scorpion answers, “...well, because it is the Middle East!”

Iran and Russia support the government of Assad against the people’s revolution. The West abhors Assad’s human right abuses. ISIS is taking advantage of the situation and would like to establish an Islamic caliphate there. The U.S. supports the Kurds who are helping us defeat ISIS. Iran hates the KurdsTurkey has closed off its borders to Syrian refugees. One day the administration indicates we will withdraw from the area, the next day we are peppering the country with missiles. And so it goes.

 Because of the unspeakable horrors that have been unleashed on the general public, can you even imagine the atrocities perpetrated on the animals? My interest in the area stems from the fact that I support Alaa Aljaleel who has a sanctuary in Aleppo mostly for cats, a few dogs, monkeys and rabbits. He gives parties for little kids and teaches them empathy and compassion through his love of animals. There are some incredibly good people in Syria. 

A DVD just released is about another courageous group, The White Helmets. It is called The Last Men in Aleppo. It has won all sorts of awards at documentary film festivals. Syrian filmmakers directed and produced with a Danish co-director and editor. The narrative follows two members of the White Helmets, Mahmoud and Khaled, as they go about their daily activities.

It is not always an easy film to watch. Oftentimes, in the line of duty, the men have to watch out for stray body parts. Whenever the city is bombed, the Helmets rush in to dig out the living and the dead from the ruin and rubble. There is always joy when someone is recovered alive and solemnity when they aren’t.

The organization is financed internationally and is apolitical. Interspersed with the tragedy are ordinary scenes of home life and of the easy camaraderie of the men. Women are conspicuously absent. Mahmoud plays with his young daughters and is concerned by their weakened statures as vitamins have become scarce. He chats with them on his cell phone when he is called away. Not all the participants will be alive by the end of the feature. We are not presented with a great deal of hope. Maybe the film maker’s theme is to jostle us to consider what can be done to alleviate the situation since we cannot remedy the source of the conflict perhaps we can mitigate some of the misery that comes from it.

Support The White Helmets and The Cat Man of Aleppo.


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