Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Frontline: Syria’s Second Front
can draw a lot of conclusions about people simply from judging the groups
trying to kill them. Most western observers are utterly baffled by the bedlam
of the Syrian Civil War. However, it is pretty easy to side with the initial
rebel groups who rose up against the Assad regime and now find themselves
battling a virulently Islamist faction in the north, once the particulars of
the conflict are established. This
Tuesday, PBS’s Frontline broadcasts Syria’s Second Front and Children of Aleppo (promo here), two boots-on-the-ground reports from
Syria documenting the precarious state of the original, largely secular rebels
and the dire conditions faced by sympathetic civilians.
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is supposedly so extreme and violent, al-Qaeda
wants to keep them at arm’s length. Presumably, they will patch things up if
ISIS takes operational control of Syria, which is not outside the realm of
possibility. They have little use for secular society and a special enmity for reporters,
whom they are perfectly willing to execute on sight. Nevertheless, Muhammad
Ali, a daring independent journalist with a memorable name, has infiltrated
ISIS controlled territory with a team of Free Syrian Army aligned rebels.
ISIS eventually leaves town, everyone is relieved to see them go. Frankly, many
of the local citizenry are quite courageous expressing their hopes for a free
secular democratic state. However, the prospects are rather iffy, even if the
fractious rebel forces can unite against both ISIS and Assad. Second Front offers some cautious
optimism on this score, but it is tempered by the shocking footage of the
better organized ISIS brutally administering Sharia Law.
to Children of Aleppo, an estimated
11,000 children have been killed in the course of the Syrian conflict. Most
parents opted to shelter their sons and daughters outside the country. One FSA
captain is a notable exception. He and his wife still live in their once fashionable
Aleppo flat with their son and three daughters. The captain’s comrades are now
like extended family to his girls, which would be almost heartwarming, if their
familiarity with the sounds of war were not so tragically well developed.
who have seen Matthew VanDyke’s Not Anymore will also recognize his footage of a twelve year old protest
singer, who just started performing for his camera as a shell landed nearly on
top of them. Both survived, but she evidently now lives in Qatar. Frankly, VanDyke’s
film is even more effective than the Frontline
films at putting a human face on the Syrian civil war. Although it is now
available online, interested New Yorkers can see VanDyke’s short doc on the big
screen on February 28th as part of the 2014 Winter Film Awards. In
contrast, Syria’s Second Front better
establishes the ideological and geopolitical context for the various factions.
The one-two punch of last month’s Secret State of North Korea and the
upcoming Syria’s Second Front make
this Frontline’s strongest season
perhaps ever. Both Broadcasts represent solid investigative journalism
conducted in countries that do not recognize press freedoms. Highly
recommended, Frontline’s twofer of Syria’s Second Front and Children of Aleppo airs Tuesday night
(2/11) on most PBS stations nationwide.
Labels: Frontline, Syria