The White Helmets

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The White Helmets Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu has positive messages, some wartime violence.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 40 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The documentary shows how a group determined to bring about positive change under incredibly difficult circumstances can do so, and save the lives of tens of thousands. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The men interviewed and shown in the documentary maintain positive attitudes in the face of incredibly difficult situations, and remain faithful to their ideals. As a result, they have saved the lives of 58,000 people who have been victimized by the bombings and attacks in their Syrian homeland. 

Violence

War violence. Injuries. Peril. A baby is pulled out of the rubble of a bombed building. Scenes of The White Helmets in grave danger as they do everything in their power to rescue anyone injured by the frequent bombing of their cities. A man learns his brother has died as the result of the bombing of a hospital. 

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Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The White Helmets is a 2016 Netflix Original documentary about a fearless group of citizen first responders in Syria who, in just the three years of their existence, have saved an estimated 58,000 lives as their country endures the bombing from Russian planes from above and terrorist attacks at ground level. There is wartime violence and peril, including a scene in which a baby is pulled out of the rubble of a recently bombed building. The White Helmets themselves, through their actions and their interviews, reveal themselves as men of incredible bravery, integrity, and idealism in the face of enemies who seem to see nothing wrong with bombing and trying to destroy civilian targets such as hospitals. The documentary manages to convey so much in such a short amount of time -- 40 minutes -- and should inspire discussion amongst family members about what is happening in Syria with ISIS, the Syrian government, and the Russian government, as well as the tendency of some in America to lump all citizens of Middle Eastern countries as evil purveyors of terrorist acts all over the world. 

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What's the story?

In war-torn Syria, a group of 2900 private citizens formed THE WHITE HELMETS, a group of first responders who have, in just three years, saved an estimated 58,000 lives during the intense bombing that has taken place as the Syrian government, with assistance from Russian fighter planes, bombed places with high concentrations of civilians, such as hospitals, in order to fight ISIS. This short documentary interviews and follows several of The White Helmets as they explain why they do what they do, the ideals that drive them, and how they maintain such bravery in the face of so much peril. This peril is brought to the forefront as one of the men, while in Turkey at a White Helmets training camp, learns that his brother has died during the bombing of a hospital. In the midst of such devastating tragedy, The White Helmets press on, believing that, "To save a life is to save humanity." 

Is it any good?

One of the many incredible facets to this documentary is how much it manages to convey in 40 minutes. Through their filmed actions, through interviews, and by simply presenting what's happening in Syria, what emerges is a portrait of unstoppable idealism and bravery, a kind of integrity and greatness rarely conveyed by a news media and many Americans who would prefer to lump all Muslims into one simple and inaccurate category: terrorists. 

The scenes of the bombings, of the rescues, of babies being saved from rubble, of children whose lives were saved by THE WHITE HELMETS, show an incredibly heroic group of citizen first responders who have saved the lives of an estimated 58,000 people in just three years, and live by the idea that "To save a life is to save humanity." By letting The White Helmets speak for themselves, in the present, without documentary filmmaker insertion, a deeper understanding of what is happening in Syria on the most basic, day-to-day level, emerges, and the documentary is as unforgettable as it is profound. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the following comment said by one of The White Helmets during an interview: "To save a life is to save humanity." What do you think that means, and how do you see this applied throughout the documentary? 

  • What are the ways in which the documentary reveals the character and beliefs of those who are active in The White Helmets?

  • How does The White Helmets show a side to the Middle East and the culture of the Middle East not often discussed in our media? 

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