Directed, produced, and filmed by Academy Award®–nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, 2015 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award), City of Ghosts is a singularly powerful cinematic experience that is sure to shake audiences to their core as it elevates the canon of one of the most talented documentary filmmakers working today. Captivating in its immediacy, City of Ghosts follows the journey of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” – a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. With astonishing, deeply personal access, this is the story of a brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.
Matthew Heineman is an Oscar®-nominated and Emmy®-winning filmmaker based in New York. His film Cartel Land was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature and won three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking and Best Cinematography. The film premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where Heineman won the Best Director Award and Special Jury Prize for Cinematography.
Aziz is a co-founder and the spokesman for Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. He is 25-years-old and currently lives in exile in Germany. Aziz grew up in Raqqa and was a biology student at Raqqa University. While in school, Aziz was active in the Syrian revolution and began organizing protests against Bashar Al Assad and the Syrian government. After ISIS invaded Raqqa in 2014, Aziz co-founded RBSS to report on the human rights abuses committed by ISIS in his hometown. As a result of his work, Aziz was arrested several times and was tortured while being detained. Under constant threat from both ISIS and the Assad government, Aziz was forced to flee Raqqa and eventually sought asylum in Germany. Now based in Europe, Aziz regularly speaks to the world press and has recently been a featured speaker at the United Nations, the German Council on Foreign Affairs, the Oslo Freedom Forum as well as various other foreign policy conferences to draw attention to the atrocities happening in Raqqa under ISIS rule.
Mohamad is a 34-year-old reporter for Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. Before joining RBSS, he held numerous jobs in Raqqa including being a member of the agricultural department, the director of the local council rescue, and a math teacher at a local school. While teaching, Mohamad learned that one of his students had been arrested and detained for criticizing the Assad regime on social media. That day, he decided to join the revolution himself and began reporting for local media outlets on the protests against Assad. He eventually joined RBSS as a reporter and was forced to flee Raqqa after ISIS took control of the city. Driven by his love of Raqqa and its people, Mohamad continues to be an active member of RBSS with the hope that he will one day be able to return to his beloved hometown with his wife, Rose.
Hamoud is a 23-year-old co-founder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. While in high-school, Hamoud became active in the Syrian revolution and started filming the protests in the streets of Raqqa. He later embedded with the Free Syrian Army as they fought to liberate Raqqa from Assad’s forces. When ISIS took over his hometown in 2014, he became a vocal critic of the terrorist organization and helped found RBSS. ISIS eventually put a bounty out for Hamoud and he was forced to leave Raqqa. After ISIS was unable to track Hamoud down, they instead arrested and assassinated his father, later publicly releasing a video showing the execution. A few months later, Hamoud learned that one of his brothers had also been assassinated by ISIS while another brother has disappeared. Now living in exile, Hamoud is determined to continue his work with RBSS. He recently became a father and named his first child Mohamed, in honor of his deceased father.
Hussam is a 27-year-old co-founder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. Before joining the group, Hussam attended law school at the University of Damascus. However, he did not graduate as he left the university when the Assad regime began arresting students who were participating in the revolution. Hussam instead returned to his hometown of Raqqa and helped found RBSS. He reported several stories on the ground inside Raqqa and was once caught secretly filming an ISIS execution, only to be released when ISIS could not find the hidden footage on his encrypted phone. After eventually being forced to flee Raqqa with his fellow co-founders, Hussam now lives in exile in Germany where he continues to write and publish articles via RBSS’s website and social media platforms on the abuses of Assad and ISIS.