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Tragedy Abroad
by Karen Pecota

Two documentary films telling the current true-to-life situation of innocent people groups suffering from the embattled cross-fire between good and evil were given a voice at the annual Sundance Film Festival 2017.

City of Ghosts

Directed, produced and filmed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman, City of Ghosts is made to shake the film audience to their core. This is a truth telling story of the RBSS (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently). The documentary follows a small group of citizen journalists turned activists who must operate under-the-radar in order for the truth to be told to the world.

The small band-of-brothers formed after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. In order to stand-up against the force of evil and tell the world of the atrocities their plight is deeply personal. Astonishing is the groups' bravery to combat the ISIS slaughter of mankind using primitive media tools to share with the world their struggle.

A life undercover, on the run and in exile they risk their own lives hoping to save the innocent of their countrymen.

To follow their journey, please visit:

Longing to view this film, I needed to secure a ticket from the wait-list line for this particular screening. I was lucky and received a ticket but knew it would be difficult to find an open seat. The theater was nearly full. I scanned the room for the nearest open place to sit. Finding one, I happily sat down and got myself comfortable after smiling and greeting the man in the seat next to me. I usually engage in immediate conversation with my neighbor but this day chose to remain quiet and rest in the joy of getting into this screening.

Minutes later the film begins. The story was gripping. I was in awe of the narrative told.

After the film the moderator for the Q & A announced of a special surprise. All of the featured undercover journalists were in the house and were called to the stage. The man next to me and those sitting next to him all stood-up, filed out of the row and walked to the stage. Wow! Trying to close my opened jaw, I found myself alone in the row of empty seats but as they stood so did I, along with the theater audience showing honor of the journalists bravery.

Initially, I was disappointed I didn't try to talk with the man sitting next to me before the film but honestly, relieved that I didn't over step my bounds to push him into a possible uncomfortable conversation. (Karen Pecota)

Last Men in Aleppo

Syrian and Danish film directors, Feras Fayyad and Steen Johannessen tell the story of Khalid, Subhi and Muhmoud in Last Men in Aleppo. The three men are the founding members of the Syrian group, The White Helmets who are the last to remain in Aleppo, a city-under-fire.

It is the story of the emergency relief teams under the service name known as The White Helmets. These men are both young and old. And, some of the last men in the city of Aleppo who are alive to document their amazing story of saving lives. But most of all they are the last of the fit who choose to assist the remnant of citizens left in Aleppo who experience the struggle to survive in the war-torn homeland. They bring hope to triumph over death.

These men are initially the first responders to retrieve people who are under the rubble of fallen buildings from the gun-fire and mortar bombs of a city under siege. Naturally, the teams hope for survivors and race to each scene with urgency. Sadly, within minutes of a fallen structure death surrounds them but hope abounds for just one baby, child or adult. Visually apparent are the tears of joy shared when someone is rescued alive. A feeling of relief that their efforts of mercy are not in vain. (Karen Pecota)