JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS (Directors: Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested) - December 31, 2017
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Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS

4.5 4.5
99 min.

Everyone is above the law

Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested have crafted a very disturbing documentary, focussing on how the Syrian version of the Arab Spring created the perfect storm for the creation then strengthening of ISIS.

The film combines gritty, disturbing to watch actual footage of on-the-ground combat, overhead bombings, anguished mothers “Where are my children!” and fear-compliance-sprung beheadings of the infidels as ISIS moves towards establishing a border-ignoring caliphate, thus returning the “right” kind of Muslims back to their glory years centuries ago as the world’s centre of power, commerce and knowledge.

It’s clear that dictator Bashar al-Assad has learned an important lesson, seeing as his fellow thug/masters lose their influence and sometimes their lives. The Syrian Free Army comes into existence due to many government soldiers no longer have the stomach for killing their own citizens. ISIS artfully exploits all rifts—real or imagined—and begins staking its claim to cities and towns.

One family, caught in the middle of the struggle and carnage, speaks for many describing the terrors of wondering if the next bomb will hit their rickety shelter, the desperate act of trying to be smuggled away to a safer haven (in this case being turned back after surviving the voyage by Turkey). The courageous father admits that his constant smile is a false front to reassure his wife and children; in fact, “I’m about to explode.” And many people do “explode” by joining one side or the other so as to have a death with, at least, some sort of meaning.

Footage from the “leaders” of all sides in the unwinnable civil war makes many points. Assad: “[You] cannot have a war without casualties” (including chemical weapons which kill everything in their path); President Obama: “He [Assad] needs to step down”; “Our red line will be chemical weapons” (a line crossed but not reacted upon); ISIS propaganda video: “We can do anything we like—(swish goes another shining blade into the neck of an “unworthy” human being). How chilling to read in the Toronto Star yesterday a quote from Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations reacting to the UN resolution decrying President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: “Don’t disrespect us,” she said, echoing the sentiment of her apparent enemies.

To fund their movement, ISIS has no qualms about smuggling away oil, selling antiquities to the highest bidder (or blowing them sky high as another example of their impunity, “Praise be to god”) or selling forgiveness cards to those infidels whose choice is pay or die.

The most telling/chilling sequence in the wonderfully edited (Aaron Soffin) film, produced a montage of countries happily killing their own citizens (the photo op with grinning whites surrounding the expert lynchings by the KKK silently said it all) will leave thinking viewers in a funk of despondency. “How can this still happen in the 21st century?” Ending these bitter truths with a painting of Christ nailed to the cross, can only remind one and all that the human race will never change so long as there are those who know and revel in their superiority to others. JWR

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