Winner 2014

Children on the Frontline

ITN Productions

In the battered, bombed out Syrian city of Aleppo, thousands of families have fled, persuaded that nothing in a refugee camp could be as terrible as wondering if a rocket will hit your house or a sniper will take you out as you hang laundry to dry. Photojournalist/director Marcel Mettelsiefen focuses on one anti-regime family who have stayed in their home and especially on the children – young sisters Helen, Farah and Sara, their brother Mohammad, and their friend Aboude. Their daily lives are an absurd, heartbreaking co-mingling of the mundane and the terrifying. Hala, the mother, recalls giving the kids “a lot of cough syrup” during the worst shelling. Farah, wearing a T-shirt embossed with a cartoon character’s face, squirms on an easy chair like the antsy eight-year-old she is as she explains how her favorite past time is helping her father, Abu Ali, make bombs. Later we see her pout because dad won’t let her keep stuffed animals she finds in an abandoned apartment. Mettelsiefen films the ruins all around them with the eye of a theatrical cinematographer, but it’s the intimacy of the interviews, some punctuated by the sound of explosions, that give the documentary its greatest power. For capturing snapshots of family life in a war zone and giving us inklings of the psychological damage visited on the young, Children on the Frontline receives a Peabody Award.


Executive Producer: Chris Shaw. Producers/Directors: Marcel Mettelsiefen, Anthony Wonke. Camera work: Marcel Mettelsiefen.