It is a dirty war of vigilante justice, rag-tag militias and indiscriminate bombing of civilians. This stunning and intimate film gets right into the stark reality of the frontline battle for Syria.
In a shot-out car a dead man lies across his wife in a hopeless attempt to save her. The rebels, led here by Abu Muhammad, a former army colonel, thought they had cleared the snipers from this area. But they were wrong. His men are immensely brave and committed, but also undisciplined: “The problem is they don’t follow directions. If they follow 15% of the plan that’s great!” With the government unwilling to engage in direct conflict with the rebels, for fear that those in the lower ranks will defect, snipers have become key to their strategy and leave a trail of dead bodies, young and old, in their wake.
However, it’s not just the government who are guilty of excesses. When the rebels capture a civilian trying to sell information to the army, they torture him for two hours, despite Abu Muhammad’s assertion he will get a fair trial after the conflict. But Abu Muhammad has greater worries. His group are low on ammunition and believe they can only win through “casualties and a willingness to die”.
Their current “marriage of convenience” with Islamic fundamentalists also worries him. What will they do if they hijack the revolution? “The real battle for Syria begins after victory. We will fight anyone who tries to turn our country into an extreme Islamic state.”