IFC Films



‘City of Ghosts’ Review

Oscar nominated director Matthew Heineman delivered the stunning documentary Cartel Land in 2015, and here he once again proves his expertise as the messenger of important (and dangerous) stories that need to be told.

City of Ghosts begins in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2012, wherein we witness the beginning of the revolution against the Assad regime. The sayings “Death is Death” and “Danger has a special taste” come into play, and by the end of the film, there is a clarity that is devastating.

The courageous and dedicated Citizen Journalists are divided into two groups: the internal who risk their lives in Raqqa uploading news stories and videos of ISIS actions and, the external who are based in Turkey and Germany, posting regularly to social media outlets. Both groups live vagabond lives – always on the move in an effort to avoid capture. Their combined efforts and risk-taking allow the real story to be told from their home city, mostly cut-off from the outside world – as evidenced by the satellite graveyard. Some quite graphic and violent video clips are used to bring poignancy and meaning to the words spoken by the brave individuals (rebels in the best sense) being interviewed. The clips are also in contrast to the quietly dignified, yet urgent approach they take in reporting developments.

RBSS (Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered) is the movement spreading the truth about ISIS atrocities – including public beheadings, shootings, and bombings. It’s a terrifying story, never more so than during the professionally produced recruiting ISIS videos featuring young children.

These brave journalists have had friends, family and neighbors slaughtered, which inspires them to continue fighting the guns and bombs with the power of words. It’s breathtaking.