Originally presented as part of PBS’ “Frontline,” Olly Lambert’s documentary provides uncommon access to both sides of Syria’s increasingly vicious civil war. Set in Syria’s Orontes River Valley, the film primarily focuses on two men on opposite sides of the conflict: a 20-year-old former policeman who defected to the rebel army and an Army officer who has pledged undying loyalty to the ruling Assad regime.
The two men have nothing in common except the unwavering desire to see the opposing side crushed into defeat. Indeed, when a United Nations-brokered truce is announced via radio, both sides of the conflict are aghast that foreign interlopers have dared to meddle in their fighting. Lambert captures the human tragedies of the civil war, with anguished family members crying over the bloodied corpses of their loved ones and hastily improvised funerals for those killed in the seemingly endless rain of gunfire and shelling.
One of the most harrowing scenes involves an interview with teenagers at a school in the pro-Assad territory – a number of students happily boast of their eagerness to go into military service and continue the war against those seeking the overthrow of the regime. If anything, this documentary offers evidence that any attempt to bring the Syrian civil war to a peaceful conclusion will be a thorough waste of time.