The TriBeCa Film Festival screened Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS last night in a powerful and moving experience at SVA in Chelsea. Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested and National Geographic create cogency out of chaos and complexity as they piece together a history of pain and devastation in Syria.
Told by Sebastian Junger, the stories rip into your soul … jihadists with murderous, treacherous, malevolent postures & words … politicians whose platitudes fall woefully short in confronting this culture of chaos … both terrifying in their threats … the obviously overt, and the cloaked insidious.
Junger’s voice guides the film in a image-rich chronology of loss, despair, destruction … stories we know of Aleppo and Damascus attacks, and black shrouded creatures wielding machetes, become more startling as you see them layered together. We learn new stories of families desperately trying to escape … and meet Marwan, the father who shares, “I smile because I do not want the children to be scared.” The moments are raw and real because they were captured by the participants themselves on phones & GoPro cameras provided to them because the conditions were too dangerous for film makers & crews.
To tell you more would rob you of the revelatory moments that were so powerful to me … and you should experience this film for yourself. During the Q&A after the film I asked Sebastian Junger what he wanted us, the audiences who experienced it, to do and react. At his core, he is a journalist, with an iron-clad, war-molded journalistic integrity. His response … “just know.”