On April 19, FRONTLINE Presents “Children of Syria”
An Unforgettable Story of War, Grief, Hope and What It Means to Start Again — Through the Eyes of Four Young Children
Premiering on PBS and online
Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT
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Since 2011, millions of Syrians have fled the brutal fighting inside their country, seeking safety, stability, and the chance at a better life in an exodus that has helped to fuel Europe’s largest migration crisis since the end of World War II.
Against this backdrop, FRONTLINE presents Children of Syria — an unforgettable story of both sadness and survival, and a profound exploration of identity, family and the meaning of home.
Filmed on the ground as the fighting rages, the documentary follows four Syrian children — Sara, Farah, Helen and Mohammed — for three years, from their struggle to live through the Assad regime’s siege of their city, to the devastating kidnapping of their father, to the beginning of their new lives as refugees.
When filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen first begins chronicling the story of these children and their parents, Hala and Abu Ali, it’s 2013, and they’re living in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city — which has become a war zone. Abu Ali is one of the first members of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, and despite the risks, his family stays by his side as the fighting intensifies rather than fleeing the country.
Four-year-old Sara has dreams in which she is shot by snipers. Seven-year-old Farah can tell apart rockets and tank shells based on the sounds they make when they land outside her home. 12-year-old Mohammed says he doesn’t have any feelings left, and 10-year-old Helen says she just wants her sisters and brother to be happy.
But the family, whom FRONTLINE viewers first met in the short 2014 documentary Children of Aleppo, is whole: “We aren’t scared because we are with our father,” Helen says.
Since then, as Children of Syria reveals, everything has changed: the family says Abu Ali was kidnapped by ISIS. “This is not our religion,” the children’s mother, Hala, says. “They have deformed the image of our religion in front of the whole world … These people have stolen our entire lives.”
With remarkable intimacy and access, Children of Syria follows the family’s emotional journey as they navigate life without Abu Ali, as Hala makes the bittersweet decision to flee their homeland for the sake of her children’s future, and as they begin their new lives as refugees in Germany — ever cognizant of all they’ve lost and left behind.
“These children, if we give them a future, they will benefit their homeland,” Hala says. “They will rebuild it.”
With the Syrian war in its sixth year, its death toll now estimated at 470,000, and thousands of refugees arriving in Europe every day, FRONTLINE’s Children of Syria is a story of war, grief, hope, and what it means to start again.
Watch Children of Syria on PBS or online Tuesday, April 19, starting at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT.
Children of Syria is an ITN production for WGBH/FRONTLINE in association with Channel 4 and ZDF. The producer and director is Marcel Mettelsiefen. The editor is Stephen Ellis. The senior producer is Dan Edge. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 75 Emmy Awards and 17 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. Founded by David Fanning in 1983, FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
Patrice Taddonio, Patrice_taddonio@wgbh.org, 617.300.5375