Intimate and personal in approach, Matthew Heineman's City of Ghosts is a detailed account of a group of Syrian activists who've seen their lives thrown into utter disarray under the barbaric, authoritarian rule of ISIS. Through the formation of a grassroots activists group 'Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silenty', these brave men aim to raise awareness around the world of the true tragedy and violence which ISIS has brought to their town of Raqqa, a once proud city bristling with the hope of democracy during Arab Spring, which now sits as perhaps ISIS largest stronghold in the entire region. A documentary with the pacing and atmosphere of an espionage thriller, Matthew Heineman's City of Ghosts first and foremost is a bristling ode to activism and journalism on a grassroots scale, providing an intricate examination of the bravery of these men who are involved in an information war against ISIS, putting their lives on the line everyday to fight the toxic propaganda of ISIS which infects their home country. City of Ghosts captures this 'david vs. goliath' struggle through an intimate profiles of various activists in the cause, growing more grandoise in nature as it details the escalation of ISIS in the region, exhibiting how the Western world effectively ignored the threat ISIS brings to the region and how this barbaric, authoritarian region has now become not only the middle east's problem but the world's problem due, at least in part, to the Western world's ignorance when it comes to military interventionism and its inability to effectively see the roots of the problem until it has washed upon their own shores. Through the story of Raqqa, and the growing threat of ISIS in the region in terms of recruitment and scope, City of Ghosts is a story about the power of information, detailing media's ability to inform but also empower through propaganda, with the activists of 'Raqqa is Slaughtered Silently' engaged in an information war with ISIS over the hearts and minds of not only the people in the region, but also those around the war who conflate ISIS's contorted version of Islam with the religion as a whole. At the core of its story, City of Ghosts captures the inherent need for freedom of the individual first and foremost, detailing how authoritarianism does not have a designated spot on the political spectrum nor is it designated to a particularly political ideology. Authoritarianism can take many shapes, adhering to either right or left ideology, with its only true definition being one based on power, control, and coercion of the people to get the results it desires often almost through force and tyranny of those individuals who don't conform. Detailing these activists continual fight with ISIS, City of Ghosts exhibits not only the physical struggles and mental exhaustion of waging in this information war, but also the psychological trauma associated with constantly having a target on one's back, with Matthew Heineman's film managing to be extremely intimate and personal about their struggle, while also touching on extremely large impact this battle has not only on their personal lives and their home, but the world itself.
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