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Parents' Guide to

City of Ghosts

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Terrifying, essential docu about journalists fighting ISIS.

Movie R 2017 92 minutes
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Heineman's documentary may be a little static, but with its sympathetic depiction of fear and hiding, it paints a vivid, terrifying portrait of life under a powerful, evil regime. Heineman (of the Oscar-nominated Cartel Land) captures his journalist subjects after they've left Syria; while they still publish regularly, they mostly sit in safe houses and rely on others to supply stories and images. Still, they're targets and are continually threatened and hunted by ISIS.

City of Ghosts has a lot of harsh imagery, from pictures of executions and ISIS' beheaded victims to recruiting videos that brainwash children into joining the "cause." A demonstration in Berlin turns alarmingly violent as well. The movie juxtaposes this reality with quiet moments spent with members of the RBSS, exploring both their bravery and their fear. In one striking segment, Aziz breaks out a private collection of photographs and then tries to smoke a cigarette while he begins to involuntarily tremble. It all makes an unforgettable impact.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: July 7, 2017
  • On DVD or streaming: October 3, 2017
  • Director: Matthew Heineman
  • Studios: Amazon Studios , IFC Films
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Character Strengths: Courage
  • Run time: 92 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, and for some language
  • Last updated: February 26, 2022

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