However, some Forum events, such as the screening of the documentary “Last Men in Aleppo”, backed only one side of the Syrian civil war story.
The 200-seat-auditorium across the street from Swiss Alpine Middle School in Davos is full. In the audience are mostly locals – adults and about two dozen kids in their early teens, with at least one big group attending the event with their teacher.
“Last men in Aleppo” w/some very disturbing imagery being shown at Davos Open Forum. Group of schoolkids attending w/teacher, seems to be part of local middle school curriculum. pic.twitter.com/y7QiOSYK1b— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) January 25, 2018
The film is full of disturbing imagery – burned human body parts, children with gaping head wounds, corpses being pulled from under the debris, so the presence of schoolkids at the screening in Davos seems rather bizarre. The documentary tells the story of a group of rescue workers in the Eastern part of war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo. It features a Hollywood-style score, which creates chilling atmosphere similar to Hollywood hits such as Dunkirk.
The film’s director Firas Fayyad receives front-row treatment in Davos. The White Helmets story is being actively promoted by the western mainstream media, its authenticity and integrity are rarely challenged by the majority of US/European journalists and viewers. pic.twitter.com/JnXch98ITK— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) January 25, 2018
However, the film’s director Firas Fayyad says that he doesn’t want the characters look like Hollywood-style heroes, comparing himself with no less than… the world’s greatest dramatist.
“We would have never heard about the conflict of Hamlet without Shakespeare” – he says – “We would have listened to a small part of the 15h century. With Shakespeare we understand what kind of lives these people lived, what kind of conflict they lived through. So this here is not to bring them as White Helmets, it’s to bring them as humans, I didn’t want to make these people as heroes.”
“I find that absolutely extraordinary that we are facing a possibility of yet again a Hollywood Oscar being given to what is an Al Qaeda promotional feature film” – says Vanessa Beeley, an independent investigative journalist who travelled to Syria and spent months doing something that no other western reporters bothered to do – fact-checking the White Helmets’ story.
And the story, according to Beeley, is quite different from messages that Fayyad and the western mainstream media are trying to convey. She discovered that the White Helmets headquarters in Aleppo, which were shown in Fayyad’s documentary, were located right next-door to Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra base, the Abu Amara battalion building and the terrorists’ media center.
“We have to ask the question: why is this multi-million-dollar-financed organization and the director of the movie that is promoting them” – says Beeley – “Why are they basically showcasing an organization that is clearly affiliated with Al-Qaeda?”
However, it seems that any attempts to challenge the western-backed Syria narrative in Europe, including the “White Helmets” story are often considered marginal, “fake-news” or “Assad propaganda”, and mainstream media continually reinforces just one side of the Syrian civil war.
So when Firas Fayyad was giving a Q&A session after the screening in Davos, the audience was merely focusing on cinematic details or even discussing the tale of rescue workers as long-awaited “positive news” from Syria.
The White Helmets, or Syria Civil Defense was formed in 2014 and operates in Turkey and in parts of Syria, which are not controlled by the government.
Gotta say, seems pretty dumb of the White Helmets to do the mannequin challenge, because you get responses like this https://t.co/hW2AYiqeag— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) November 21, 2016
In 2016 the organization faced criticism after a video appeared online with White Helmet members posing amidst rubble in what the organization claimed to be their version of the viral “Mannequin Challenge” flashmob.
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