Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘City Of Ghosts’ Gut Wrenching Realities Of Real Citizen Journalists

Review by L.C. Cragg

City of Ghosts delivers gut wrenching realities of terrorist infiltration with some hard to watch executions and personal stories of citizen journalists. The film follows the journey of a handful of anonymous citizen activists, RBSS , (an acronym for Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently) in the city of Raqqa, Syria who banded together after their homeland and city were taken over by ISIS in 2014.

The terrorism, tortures and killings documented via this film depicts on fundamental level the tragedies and the ripple effects of terrorism on the lives of Syrians and their families.

With Oscar nominated Matthew Heineman’s adept story telling ability, viewers learn as best we can as outsiders, the motivation, tactics, recruitment, and ruthlessness of ISIS. But more importantly, audiences learn the importance of free speech. RBBS, as modern media activists embrace the importance of “seeing something and then saying something”. The RBSS personify bravery as they are always ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage in their reporting and sending out information.

Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead’s quote rings true throughout the dire and at times depressing stories of the RBSS.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

This small group, the RBSS, through this film and their efforts has indeed changed the world. The film’s content at times is very raw and graphically disturbing but Heineman’s softer touch in the personal interviews helps the audience to identify with their fears, tears, despairs and hopes for a better future.

Currently as the battle for Raqqa has escalates, hopefully to a conclusion of defeating ISIS, this film is ultimately timely and provides the background of the initial invasion, realties of war, suffering and actions required for the difficult fight for freedom.

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