Film Review – City of Ghosts

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In association with the GFT

In a safe house in an undisclosed German city, Hamoud watches the video of his father’s execution repeatedly. ISIS has released it publicly in an attempt to prevent him from continuing on as a citizen journalist sharing news from inside the conquered city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of Islamic State. His brother Hassan also watches, and explains that they’ve just learned of the death of their other brother at the hands of the extremists.

City of Ghosts is a soul-destroying documentary into the lives of these men and the other members of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a group dedicated to bringing news and footage of ISIS atrocities to the outside world, as well as the crimes committed by Assad’s forces, and by coalition-led drone strikes. The film shines a spotlight into the reality of existence for those in the “external” department, i.e. those who have fled Syria and now live in Turkey or Germany. We are shown how these men who have laid their lives on the line in the name of truth are surviving under constant fear – fear for their colleagues back in Raqqa who are putting themselves at risk of torture and execution, and fear for themselves, knowing that ISIS agents are likely attempting to track them down and kill them. This isn’t an idle fear. They receive death threats on a regular basis as ISIS forces post their names and pictures on extremist sites. Naji Jerf, who worked closely with the group, was murdered in Turkey two years ago, as was journalist Ibrahim Abd al-Qader.

This isn’t easy to watch, whether it’s footage of child soldiers or beheaded corpses in Syria, or of the journalists learning about the death of yet another friend. But this is a vitally needed film, documenting the heroes behind the camera phone who themselves are recording events that the rest of the world would rather turn away from. And what they are doing is more than just passive witnessing – by opposing the ISIS propaganda machine they are working to prevent radicalisation of more vulnerable people. The only way they can fully achieve this though is if we pay attention to what is happening in the city where “people remain, but life does not”.

[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum]

This film will be screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre from the 31st of July to the 3rd of August, tickets are available here:

The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here:

To find out more about Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, visit their page at

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