American filmmaker Matthew Heineman proved his true grit two years ago with the documentary Cartel Land. The chilling, on-the-ground examination of drug wars along the U.S.-Mexico border scored an Oscar nomination for Heineman, who was just shy of 30 years old when the film was released.
His follow-up film is the haunting and brutal City of Ghosts, another dangerous look into the lion’s mouth of international unrest. The subjects are members of the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, an organization founded by heroic Syrian journalists to combat ISIS using social media. As The New Yorker editor David Remnick says in the movie’s trailer (above), “They work in secret and under constant threat, reporting on the degradations of ISIS in their home city. Some have fled in fear for the own lives. Even in exile, they are in no way safe.”
Indeed, ISIS has ascended in large part due to its internet savvy — and an utterly chilling sequence in City of Ghosts shows the rebel journalists reacting to an ISIS Facebook post showing a photo of the men’s safe house in Berlin. The trailer also features glimpses of a neo-Nazi rally in Germany during which the Syrian anti-ISIS group members are taunted and heckled by enraged white Hitlerites.
City of Ghosts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival January, where EW’s Chris Nashawaty praised it as “harrowing, haunting, and ultimately hopeful.” It will be released in theaters (via Amazon Studios and IFC Films) on July 7.
Heineman will segue from documentaries to feature films for his next project, a biopic of the extraordinary war correspondent Marie Colvin. Oscar-nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) will star as Colvin, who was killed in Syria in 2012.