Nowhere is the human toll of Syria’s ongoing civil war more brutally manifest than in the lives of Aleppo’s “White Helmets”—first responders to the devastating bombing and terrorist attacks that have pushed this city to the brink of collapse. Volunteers Khaled, Mahmoud, and Subhi rush toward bomb sites while others run away. They search through collapsed buildings for the living and dead. Contending with fatigue, dwindling ranks, and concerns for their families’ safety, they must decide whether to stay or to flee a city in ruins.
An unforgettable portrait of reluctant heroes, Last Men in Aleppo employs a strict vérité approach but unfolds like a classical tragedy. A collaboration between Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad, Danish filmmaker Steen Johannessen, and the Aleppo Media Center, it’s a patchwork of resonant moments—some horrifying (pulling lifeless infants from the rubble), others improbably hopeful (playing a makeshift soccer game, building a fishpond, driving kids to a playground during a ceasefire). Together they are a testament to mankind’s capacity for unspeakable atrocity and an ode to courage and compassion.