City of Ghosts 2.0 stars

City of Ghosts movie poster

An important story that loses something in the telling. There is, admittedly, something shocking in saying that a documentary which includes footage of a man being executed via crucifixion lacks any kind of immediacy and/or viscerality. (To say nothing of the shock involved in seeing such a thing at all.) But Matthew Heineman’s followup to the astonishingly intimate Cartel Land is only indirectly about the horrors taking place under Taliban rule in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Its direct object is the citizen journalist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, and on that front, its access is largely limited to those members of the group who have sought refuge away from that slaughter. It’s clear these men are heroes, and that they have suffered (and continue to suffer) for their bravery. But Heineman stumbles in his juxtaposition of their more interior, shadowy drama with the bright and blazing nightmare they left behind, and also in his account of their actual workings. Perhaps the latter is necessary to protect those still on the ground, but it does work to lessen the story’s power. As does the depiction of well-dressed Westerners expressing admiration and concern. 2017.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader