Devastation has become a norm in Aleppo, Syria. The empty shells of its formerly glorious buildings represent what once was in the vibrant city. Each street tells a story. Every bombed structure represents a person, a family and a community forever split by war. The city now lies in ruins. Underneath the rubble are memories, moments and other remnants that are lost forever. More than 400,000 people have died since the fighting began, and more are killed every day.
In the documentary Goodbye Aleppo, four citizen journalists record their final days in the war-torn region. Each is armed with a smartphone or small camera and records different aspects of life in the besieged city. These are not war correspondents or well-known reporters; they are fathers, husbands and sons who desired to document their beloved home. The images are real. The constant running for cover, hiding in buildings and daily struggle of survival are just a part of everyday life for those who remain in the city. Yet despite their terror and hardship, there is love and even laughter, as families share what little they have. They realize that even in the darkest section of the world, there is still hope and life. That is what keeps them hanging on: the hope that one day they will be free of terror.
Since the fighting escalated in Aleppo, thousands of civilians have been trapped with limited access to food, water or medicine. It is a daily struggle for these men, women and children to survive. As they leave their shelter every day, they keep one eye on the sky – constantly aware of the ongoing bombings from above – and one eye on the street, as the Islamic State and government fighters continue to attack. Snipers are positioned throughout the streets of Aleppo, making it a dangerous journey to even step outside. This fear has prevented many from fleeing.
“It is like going from one danger to another danger,” journalist Basim Ayyoubi said in the film. “It is like seeking refuge from the desert in hell.”
The members of the city council continue to beg international organizations for help, but their negotiations for peace and ceasefire go unheard as President Bashar al-Assad and his forces continue to close in on the city. The revolutionist fighters are no match for the regime, and often have no choice but to yield their ground. With fear of capture and execution, Aleppo’s civilians have no choice but to try to escape.
Under a barrage of gunfire, the Syrians run toward the only hope in front of them. Thousands cram themselves into a nearby border crossing, knowing at any moment they could be bombed or cut down by gunfire. Still they push forward with the hope that they can escape to a better life.
Throughout Goodbye Aleppo, children are seen roaming throughout the rubble. Many have seen firsthand the devastating effects of war. “I still get scared,” one little girl remarked, before jolting and looking toward the sky as she heard the whiz of a bomb. “They continue to bomb us and we have to hide.”
These children have seen loved ones killed right in front of them. They have struggled for breath as a result of the chlorine bombings. There is no school in Aleppo. There are no playgrounds or toys. The sweet innocence of childhood isn’t found on their faces, for they have grown up with the daily realization that today could be their last day. They dream to someday eat the food they once enjoyed. They hope for a day to play and run in a worry-free world. But for now, they continue to wait and hope.
With each passing day, the city moves one step closer to collapsing under the weight of the turmoil. But even in terror, its civilians are torn between the fear of the unknown and the hope of returning to their beloved city.
“I have memories in every inch of this place. This is home.” citizen journalist Seraj Al Deen Al Omar said, as he tearfully walked around the rubble. “This street is where I was born. This is where we played as children. This is where my parents first met. I believe that one day I will come back here, but for now, goodbye Aleppo.”
Goodbye Aleppo was directed by Christine Garabedian. It runs for 51 minutes and is available to watch on Amazon Video.
Jonny Gamet is a youth pastor in South Carolina. He has master’s degrees in broadcast management and in Biblical studies. This review has been republished from The Philos Project, a MercatorNet partner site.