Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What’s On Netflix: THE WHITE HELMETS

Welcome to another installment of WHAT’S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film or series currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans. This week’s selection is a critically acclaimed documentary short that recently received an Academy Award nomination…THE WHITE HELMETS.

The White Helmets is a 2016 documentary short directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. The film follows follows four members of The White Helmets (an organization in Syria dedicated to rescuing survivors of bombings and other attacks in the ongoing Syrian civil war) as they tell their stories about saving people and getting real training to save even more people. Though this is certainly an important subject, as a documentary I found it to be fairly underwhelming.

Make no mistake, The White Helmets organization and what they do is incredible and massively important. They have a level of bravery I cannot even conceive of and they have saved so many lives by virtue of their good work. Evaluating this as a film I need to take that away. Was this well-made? Not really. The camera work, the documentary narrative, and the take away from the film all really left me wanting more.

Beginning with the positives, this documentary is good in the way that it found an important topic and did a great job embedding the filmmakers in the situation. As I mentioned, the work the brave members of The White Helmets are doing is super important and is incredibly topical. Bringing that to the screen and, thus, to the hearts and minds of an audience is a great thing to see and I think that the filmmakers did achieve that much. I also thought that they found a way to make this genuine. Real interviews, on the ground filming (including some grimy imagery), and a general sense of gritty realism make this documentary feel like it has purpose and that worked for me.

Despite the basic elements being there, nothing else is particularly special. Yes, this felt very real, but the shots weren’t terribly well done, nor were they tremendously interesting. There is a lot of amateurish camera work in this film when it didn’t need to be necessarily. I also thought that the documentary didn’t have a terribly compelling narrative or take away. It’s mostly told chronologically and all with interviews and title cards that reminded me of a bad infomercial. There is nothing terribly intriguing in how the story is told and, as a generally informed individual, I literally learned nothing from this film. The White Helmets save people and the people in it really care about human life. I got that. I knew that going in. Maybe if I had no idea what The White Helmets were I’d be amazed at this organization doing good work, but I don’t think they’re so obscure where a documentary just revealing their existence is adequate.

This is about an interesting topic, but it isn’t an interesting documentary. Worth checking out if you have some time to spare or don’t know anything about The White Helmets but not a life changing piece otherwise.

Ryan’s Score: 6/10

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