Amanda Erickson writes: When “The White Helmets,” a documentary short about volunteer rescue workers in Syria, took home an Oscar on Sunday night, the group’s press officer was elated. He tweeted: “The world stands with the white helmets. Standing ovation at the Oscars. We have won.”
The film follows three volunteers from Syria Civil Defense, more commonly known as the White Helmets, as they do the heartbreaking work of rescuing civilians from the rubble. (At one point, they pull a 1-month-old “miracle baby,” unharmed, from a collapsed building. He’d been trapped for half a day.) The group was founded by locals along with a former British army officer and United Arab Emirates-based consulting firm called Analysis Research and Knowledge. Its membership is overwhelmingly Syrian, though it has received training from ARK and a Turkish NGO. The White Helmets receive funding from U.S. and European governments, operating on a budget of about $26 million.
The organization says it has saved about 60,000 lives. More than 140 of its volunteers have been killed. For these efforts, the White Helmets have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The documentary has garnered good press and glowing reviews. But not everyone reacted so positively to the win. The Twitter account run by the Russian Embassy in Britain attacked the film Tuesday morning, calling the documentary a fiction populated by actors. [Continue reading…]