Matthew Heineman’s new documentary, City of Ghosts, focuses on RBSS (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently), a group of citizen activists who documented the path of destruction and death inflicted on the city of Raqqa in 2014. The group set out to witness the crimes of both the Bashar Al-Assad regime and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) through active reporting, including the secret filming of events leading to the fall and capture of Raqqa.
Extensive footage shows how ISIS rose to power in Syria, seemingly on the back of Assad regime protests around democracy, and how RBSS silently filmed them to ensure that there was a historical record of the atrocities that would be committed, which unbeknownst to RBSS would eventually amount to genocide and Crimes against Humanity. From the inception of ISIS arriving in the city, to the realisation that they were worse than Assad’s pro-government forces, the documentary frighteningly captures the nightmare that besieges Syrians daily. ISIS trucks parade through the city centre with crucified hostages, beheaded bodies line the footpath outside a popular park, while mainstream and western media remain silent. The film’s focus is on RBSS communicating to the international community the atrocities taking place, and pleads with it to spread the news of what is occurring in Syria.
Extremely confronting, City of Ghosts is essential viewing for those interested in the rise of ISIS and how citizens are able to bear witness for generations to come.
City of Ghosts screens at Hoyts Melbourne Central on Saturday 5 August at 9:15pm and on Sunday 20 August at 4:15pm.