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The citizen journalists of Syrian website Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently are the haunted heroes of this tough documentary
The 18 certificate awarded to Matthew Heineman’s documentary about the citizen journalists behind the website Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently gives some indication of the horrors that these brave men and women witness on a daily basis. Political activism was not even on the radar of the inhabitants of the isolated Syrian city of Raqqa until the Arab spring ousted the government forces and the resultant power vacuum was filled by Islamic State. Watching with mounting dread the atrocities meted out by the men who claimed to be the city’s liberators, a loose group of activists vowed to bring the truth about life under Isis to the rest of the world. This documentary doesn’t spare the audience from the obscenity of the violence – this is a gruelling but essential watch. »
- Wendy Ide
Their families have been killed, they live in hiding, but a brave group of Syrians continue to defy Islamic State by reporting its atrocities to the world. The director of a new documentary explains how he told their shocking stories
The most remarkable scene in Matthew Heineman’s new film City of Ghosts – indeed, possibly the most remarkable scene in any documentary you’re likely to see this year – takes place in an unfurnished German apartment. Hamoud al-Mousa, a founder member of the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (Rbss) sits staring at a laptop, watching a video of his father’s murder at the hands of Islamic State militants. The killing has been filmed in the manner of a Michael Bay movie, bombastic and slickly edited. It is intended to strike fear into Hamoud – and any others willing to expose the many atrocities committed by the terrorist group. »
- Gwilym Mumford
Author: Daniel Brightmore
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman follows up Cartel Land (a riveting expose of Mexico’s drug wars) with City of Ghosts, the story of a group of Syrian citizen journalists, known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (Rbss), defiantly revealing the truth about life under Islamic State rule. Heineman talked to HeyUGuys about the challenges he faced filming the group’s exiled members on the run from Isis at safe houses in Turkey and Germany while under constant threat of exposure.
When did you become aware of the work of Rbss and how did you first make contact with them?
When I was travelling around making Cartel Land Isis was becoming front page news. I was reading voraciously about Rbss and trying to understand this phenomenon. Eventually I came across this article by David Remnick in the New Yorker and immediately upon reading it I knew I wanted to tell their story. »
- Daniel Brightmore
Festival reveals the award winners from its 34th edition.
Scaffolding has won the best Israeli feature film prize at the 34th edition of the Jerusalem Film Festival.
A jury consisting of Elle producer Saïd Ben Saïd, artist Yael Bartana, cinematographer Agnès Godard and Cíntia Gíl, director of film festival Doclisboa, said of the film: “For a film that combines the reality of a group of teenagers and the will of questioning cinema and the role of filmmaking. For its capacity of capturing the tenderness sometimes behind these kids’ violence, their capacity for love, their surprising imagination, in a society that places them in a marginal role forever.”
The festival »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Tom Grater)
Author: Daniel Brightmore
Oscar-nominated documentarian Matthew Heineman follows up Cartel Land (his brutal expose of Mexico’s drug wars) with a film that is both truly shocking and moving. City of Ghosts tells the story of a group of citizen journalists risking their lives to show the world the harsh realities of life under Isis rule on the battered streets of Raqqa (Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital), at the heart of the Syrian conflict.
As a collective, they are known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (Rbss) and won the International Press Freedom Award in 2015 for their groundbreaking work as one of Syria’s few independent news sources. To share their videos of brutal beheadings and executions -in the now ironically named Freedom square – and the chilling aftermath of Us-led airstrikes (which Un investigators confirm have caused a staggering loss of civilian life) Rbss rely on the bravery of their »
- Daniel Brightmore
This documentary about courageous activists in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa is a powerful testament to a new kind of citizen journalism
Related: City of Ghosts review: could be the definitive Syria documentary
Matthew Heineman’s documentary is about a remarkably courageous group in Raqqa, Syria, who have formed something between a digital citizen journalist collective and a resistance cell. When Islamic State moved into the city after the anti-Assad insurgency and established a brutal reign, these people took out their smartphones and formed an activist group called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. They uploaded their videos to YouTube and social media, and showed the world the violence and sheer psychopathic spite of Isis. This film showed me horrible images I’ve never seen before, having been squeamish about searching them out online: beheadings, executions, mock crucifixions and Nazi-style placard shaming. Rbss, as they are known, took on Isis in the digital media war, »
- Peter Bradshaw
MaryAnn’s quick take… A devastating portrait of Syrian citizen journalists, of the sacrifices they make to tell of Isis occupation, and a cautionary tale for Western culture, too. I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
For years, the only news we’ve had out of the Syrian city of Raqqa — besieged, occupied, and cut off from the outside world by the so-called Islamic State — has come via a small group of incredibly brave, driven citizen journalists known collectively as “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” (Rbss). Anonymous reporters, armed with little more than digital cameras and unreliable Internet connections, send their footage out to their partners in Turkey and Germany, who then distribute their dispatches to the rest of the planet via Facebook, Twitter, and their Web site, where they eventually find their way into the mainstream media. »
- MaryAnn Johanson
Consider it the Spider-Man: Homecoming effect. One of the smartest things that director Matthew Heineman does in his film City of Ghosts is do away with any sort of Syrian primer for the audience. Far too many movies do not trust their audience to already know a thing or two about the subject at hand and in this documentary, ostensibly about the Syrian citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (Rbss), knows that we already have the basic gist of this conflict filed away and instead dives right into its story.
Like I said, it’s a smart move, and one that already marks this as an improvement over the director’s last film, the Oscar-nominated, but sloppy Cartel Land. Still, while it does indeed have a keener focus on the subject at hand, the frustrating elements of that earlier film nonetheless remain in Heineman’s repertoire. »
- Glenn Dunks
Like any director about to release a massive summer blockbuster, French filmmaker Luc Besson is anxious about how his $180 million dollar sci-fi adventure will be received.
“I can feel the resistance when it comes to the American audience,” said Besson. “I can feel it, I’m not blind. ‘Oh, that’s not a Marvel? Oh, she’s not totally an actress yet? [Star Cara Delevingne was a successful fashion model.] What is Rihanna doing there and who’s this weirdo French guy?’ I can feel all that.”
Read More: ‘Valerian’: How Luc Besson Made a $180 Million Indie That Can’t Fail
From the start, Besson knew his vision for adapting Pierre Christin’s 1967 comic series “Valérian and Laureline” did not fit Hollywood’s tentpole model, which is why his EuropaCorp raised the $180 million production budget and partnered with Stx to bypass studios completely.
To some degree, that is the story of Besson’s film career. As either »
- Chris O'Falt
- email@example.com (Orlando Parfitt)
Chicago – The Chicago Media Project is starting a new and exciting quarterly program called “Dinner & Docs at The Davis.” The “dinner” is offered by Chef Gil Langlois of the new Carbon Arc Restaurant at The Davis Theatre in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood (link to details below). The “doc” is the new documentary feature “City of Ghosts,” directed by Matthew Heineman, to be screened after the dinner at in The Davis Theatre. The screening will be followed by a Skype appearance by director Heineman, moderated by Kerry Peterson (Committee to Protect Journalists) and Lina Sergie Attar (The Syrian Campaign).
“City of Ghosts” is directed, produced, and filmed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land”). The documentary follows the journey of a organization within a war-torn city in Syria… “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” – who are a handful of anonymous activists, banded together after Raqqa and surrounding territories »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Fendelman)
Documentary filmmakers are some of the most courageous, compassionate, and underappreciated artists in the entertainment industry. While documentaries rarely receive the attention of blockbuster films, they are an incredibly important tool for telling the real events affecting people. One filmmaker who has highlighted extremely important issues is the talented Matthew Heineman. Heineman is a young documentary filmmaker who has created some highly acclaimed films like Escape Fire, Cartel Land, and City of Ghosts. His work has told the stories of real people who are enduring dangerous and desperate conditions. Fans of his films should know just how much effort and
Five Things You Didn’t Know About Matthew Heineman »
- Timothy Hickey
David Lowery's fantasy-romance A Ghost Story starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara opened strong in four New York and L.A. theaters over the weekend. The A24 release took in over $108K. New doc City of Ghosts from Oscar-nominee Matthew Heineman had a decent roll out in two New York locations, grossing $16K, while China Lion's historical drama Our Time Will Come bowed in 18 North American cities at $48K. Gunpowder & Sky added runs for medieval nunnery escapade The Little H… »
“A Ghost Story” (A24) joined the recent surge of strong limited openers. Boasting top reviews, David Lowery’s offbeat Sundance hit nabbed a wider than usual arthouse audience. A24 is terrific with the right project at casting a wider specialized market net, so this should join several recent titles led by “The Big Sick” (Amazon Studios/Lionsgate) and “The Beguiled” (Focus Features) that have found wider interest as they expand.
This weekend, as breakout “The Big Sick” reaches a wider audience, it’s on its way to becoming the biggest specialized release of 2017 so far — and Amazon’s biggest grosser to date. It looks perfectly positioned for its nationwide break this Friday.
Syria documentary, likely Oscar-contender “City of Ghosts” (IFC) opened in New York only, landing high-end reviews for a reality-based theatrical release.
A Ghost Story (A24) – Metacritic: 87; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle, Bam 2017
$108,067 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average »
- Tom Brueggemann
Oscar-nominee Matthew Heineman's Sundance debut City of Ghosts from Amazon Studios/IFC Films is riding a critical and media wave as it heads out to theaters in New York this weekend ahead of other cities throughout summer and into fall. A24's A Ghost Story also is opening, though all similarities end with the titles. Directed by David Lowery and starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, A Ghost Story bows in four New York and L.A. locations. China Lion is opening war drama O… »
Matthew Heineman’s new documentary, “City of Ghosts,” is about the citizen journalists behind ”Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” whose social media dispatches have been one of the only ways the outside world has been able to track the atrocities happening inside Syria. Heineman embedded himself with these men, who risked everything, as they go through the gut-wrenching job of reporting what is happening in their hometown.
For Heineman, who films by himself without any crew, shooting “City of Ghosts” in many ways was a different filmmaking experience than his Oscar nominated “Cartel Land” where he was embedded in the citizen uprising against Mexican drug cartels. We recently check in with Heineman to find how he approached this particular filmmaking challenge.
Read More: One-Person Crew: The Pros and Cons of Making a Documentary By Yourself
What camera and lens did you use?
C300 Mark II, Canon 17-55mm and Canon 24-105mm. »
- Chris O'Falt
When Anthony Bourdain took issue with “Baby Driver” in a blunt tweet a few days after the movie’s release, the celebrity chef was advocating for another kind of action movie experience. He followed up his initial outburst by singling out “The Raid,” the bloody Indonesian martial arts film, as a superior movie. Whether or not the comparison is fair, Bourdain did hit on two crucial factors with respect to the action genre — it is big, and it is global. No discerning viewer can truly claim complete knowledge of the genre before at least getting familiar with the range of possibilities around the world.
Here are the four essential subgenres every diehard fan should know. If Bourdain traveled the world going to film festivals in search of authentic regional action films, instead of food, these are the sorts of kickass flavors likely to entice him.
Read More:Anthony Bourdain Lashes »
- Chris O'Falt
Evil spreads faster than justice — that’s one of the things that makes it so sinister. It’s hard to contain, it’s always on the offensive, and it isn’t bound by the tactfulness of the truth. Love must be fought for, hate needs only to be permitted. There’s a lot to sort through in Matt Heineman’s profoundly harrowing “City of Ghosts,” the latest in a long line of recent documentaries about the atrocities that are being committed in Syria, but that grim dichotomy emerges from the chaos intact and more striking than ever. Almost everything else is lost in the rubble, sacrificed at the altar of a film whose horrors are so upsetting that they ultimately represent little more than their own madness.
“City of Ghosts” may be concerned with a death-defying group of citizen journalists, but the film isn’t particularly concerned with context — it »
- David Ehrlich
The wave of revolutionary protests known as the Arab Spring occurred relatively early in the history of social media, less than five years after Twitter—a key factor in popular uprisings in countries like Egypt and Tunisia—was launched in summer 2006. Now that the Arab Spring has chilled into the Arab Winter, social media continues to play a key role in resistance to extremism in the Middle East, with both sides using increasingly sophisticated methods to win hearts and minds. This existential war of ideas is the subject of City Of Ghosts, the new documentary from Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman. The film profiles Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a collective of mostly anonymous Syrians who risk their lives smuggling information out of the small city where Isis has set up its headquarters and posting it online.
Our introduction to the conflict in Syria is relatively brief—those looking »
- Katie Rife
Getting out early can be an advantage in the documentary race, which is often front loaded at January’s Sundance Film Festival. While a raft of movies made their mark, the question is which ones can sustain support through the end of the year.
Among that festival’s breakouts were three Syria documentaries. Daring and timely “City of Ghosts” (July 14, A & E/Amazon Studios), which is Matthew Heineman’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated border drug war thriller “Cartel Land,” will get a major push. Any footage from Syria came from the fearless Raqqa journalists he tracked through Turkey and Germany, where they discover that they are not necessarily safe — anywhere.
It remains to be seen if there will be room for more than one Syrian documentary. HBO Documentary Films is forgoing Emmy consideration for “Winter on Fire” nominee Evgeny Afineevsky’s harrowing “Cries From Syria” (March 10, HBO), planning an Oscar push this fall. »
- Anne Thompson
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