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Netflix Documentary on Syrian Rescue Team Takes Home an Oscar as Bombings Continue

28 February, 2017
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At the 2017 Academy Awards held on Sunday, the Oscar for Best Documentary Short went to a film about the Syrian Civil Defence, who risk their lives on a daily basis to save civilians caught in the turmoil of Syria’s protracted civil war.

The Netflix-produced documentary was named “The White Helmets” after the nickname bestowed upon the team of heroes. It premiered globally on September 16.

“This was a very difficult film to make,” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara, the two filmmakers behind the documentary, previously told BECAUSE. “One of the most difficult things was seeing the toll the war had taken on the White Helmets themselves. Going into this project, we thought we had an idea of what the White Helmets went through, but the violence they are subjected to each day—both physical and psychological—is truly shocking. Each day in Syria, they don't know if they will come home to their families at the end of the day,” they said.

Over 140 White Helmets have been killed in the line of duty, while thus far saving the lives of more than 82,000 civilians, according to their numbers.

The day before the 89th Academy Awards, a White Helmets center was bombed, a statement issued on the day they won the award had announced. 

"While we follow the Oscars, the Syrian regime has launched chlorine gas attacks in Harasta, injuring civilians,” tweeted Khaled Khatib, the cinematographer who shot much of the footage, and who was banned from entering the US to attend the awards.

In a revolution-turned-war in 2011, civilians find themselves bombed and buried under the rubble on a daily basis. The White Helmets emerged in 2013, attracting more than 3,000 volunteers. They are named for the distinctive white hard hats worn by volunteers.

“Right from the start this was about shining a very bright light on the heroes of our film, the White Helmets, Syrian rescue workers,” said Von Einsiedel at the Oscars.

"The White Helmets represent hope,” the filmmakers had told BECAUSE.

Tags Syria conflict rescue Academy Awards documentary