2017 Oscar Nominee - Best Documentary Short

The White Helmets

Director:Orlando von Einsiedel

Released: 2016

View on: Netflix

*Note: This post is part of a series I am writing on the 2017 Oscar nominees for best documentary short.

Before you watch The White Helmets, know that there is some very horrific footage. It’s incredibly important to see, but you should be warned. It is no surprise to those of us who pay attention to the news that the civil war in Syria is bloody and continues to get worse. But even when we hear accounts of it, we have no way to comprehend the all-encompassing nature this war has on the people of Syria. Hundreds of thousands have died, huge numbers of people have fled the country and are trying to be resettled as refugees in other countries.

The White Helmets are a group of people in Syria, similar to a civil defense, who rush to sites that have been bombed to try to save lives and recover bodies from the rubble. Since 2013, this group of men has saved more than 58,000 lives. The documentary follows them as they head to sites that have just been bombed to look for people. At one point, they dig a baby, not even a month old, out of the rubble. Miraculously, the baby is alive. At another point, they pull an older woman out of the rubble. She did not survive.

The White Helmets receive training on how to use special equipment and the best safety techniques at a site in Turkey. The documentary shows their training experience, and one White Helmet notes how peaceful and different Turkey is from Syria – just by crossing a made up border.

As time goes on, the White Helmets explain, more and more civilians are being targeted. Civilian hospitals begin to be bombed while a group of White Helmets is at training in Turkey. The brother of one of the White Helmets was killed while in a hospital. They also explain that the bombs have gotten more sophisticated and can now take out an entire neighborhood as opposed to just a few hundred square feet. The war is not showing signs of stopping. But despite all of this, the White Helmets remain optimists.

“Without hope, what good is life? People will die without hope.” -A White Helmet

So what can you do? Well, aside from keeping up with the situation and pressing our government to work toward humanitarian solutions, it’s hard to say. However, this documentary makes it easy to understand why so many people from Syria have become refugees and are trying to get to the United States or European countries where they actually have a chance to stay alive. In order to assist these individuals in making sure they can come, I have donated money to the ACLU to fight the executive order that came out a few weeks ago barring refugees from Syria. We, as in the world, have a moral obligation to find an end to the civil war in Syria, and quickly.


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