Matthew Heineman’s documentary is about a remarkably courageous group in Raqqa, Syria, who have formed something between a digital citizen journalist collective and a resistance cell. When Islamic State moved into the city after the anti-Assad insurgency and established a brutal reign, these people took out their smartphones and formed an activist group called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. They uploaded their videos to YouTube and social media, and showed the world the violence and sheer psychopathic spite of Isis. This film showed me horrible images I’ve never seen before, having been squeamish about searching them out online: beheadings, executions, mock crucifixions and Nazi-style placard shaming. RBSS, as they are known, took on Isis in the digital media war, matching the jihadis’ increasingly sophisticated propaganda videos with material of their own. Some of their most devastating images concern Isis’s ruthless recruitment of children. As RBSS put it: “Children are Isis’s firewood.” Now most people in the group have taken refuge in Germany, where they live in fear of being assassinated. Their fight goes on. This is a powerful testament to a new kind of citizens’ digital journalism.
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# Middle East and north Africa
This documentary about courageous activists in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa is a powerful testament to a new kind of citizen journalism
Peter Bradshaw is the Guardian's film critic