Netflix will release a short film on the volunteer heroes in Syria's brutal war
An upcoming original short documentary on Netflix provides an in-depth look into perhaps the most dangerous job in the world: the volunteer first responders of Syria’s brutal war. Titled The White Helmets, after their nickname that stems from their headgear, the film follows three members from the group of about 3,000 who are among the first to arrive after bombs have rained down on hospitals and apartments and markets.
A trailer released first to TIME, ahead of the Sept. 16 premiere, begins with a child placing a white helmet on a man who then kisses them goodbye and says “Don’t give mom a hard time. Okay?” Seconds later, a helicopter appears overhead, and then a short series of explosions can be heard. The sights and sounds that follow—dust, screams, bodies and blood—are what the White Helmets face every day. Stretcher bearers hurry into a mess of cement and iron and dense smoke, and emerge carrying a child.
The White Helmets gained fame in 2014 when rescuers pulled an infant from the rubble—he was later dubbed the “miracle baby”—and again in August when the group helped save Omran Daqneesh. The boy in Aleppo was carried to an ambulance after an airstrike destroyed his family’s home and photographed alone and in shock. Footage of the rescue went viral, bringing attention back to the White Helmets and the crisis in the northern city that for years has been divided by government and opposition forces.
Often, the White Helmets are targeted by the government. In what’s called a “double-tap,” suspected Syrian government planes drop an initial barrel bomb at a site and then a second one after the rescuers begin to arrive. In June 2015, Raed Saleh, head of the group, made an impassioned speech to the United Nations Security Council that specifically asked for an end to such indiscriminate killings. Overall, more than 130 rescuers have died.
At one point during his speech, he asked, “can you imagine even one single day that we live?”
For those who haven’t seen the countless videos released by the group on social media and YouTube, this documentary is a first step toward that understanding. The film is directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, and produced by Joanna Natasegara, two of the minds behind the Academy Award-nominated film Virunga.