Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2014: First to Fall
First to Fall, the first film from Rachel Beth Anderson, is a harrowing documentary conceived through KickStarter, which is becoming an increasingly popular platform for struggling filmmakers to fund their films. One of the last films to screen at this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, the hand-held documentary tells the story of two expatriates from Libya, both of whom were studying in Canada at the time, and their conscious decision to suspend their studies and fight for the rebels in their homeland country during the Libyan Uprising in 2011.
First to Fall at times presents itself with typically anti-war sentiment, highlighting the horrors of war and the repercussions that come with it. But this is also somewhat juxtaposed with the rebels’ sheer heroism and dedication to their country, regardless of the politics, as well as the drastic lengths they will go to to liberate a country that has been destroyed by the belligerent Gaddafi. It is both poignant and heartbreaking to watch.
But Anderson and the subjects of the documentary, Tarek and Hamid, don’t shy away from infusing a little humour into the film – successful in its approach because it makes the audience easier to engage and emotionally resonate with the characters who are in such a position. Tarek and Hamid eventually go down two different trajectories, but they do share a likeness: their palpable, inexorable patriotism.
But the end of the film, naturally, they have changed exponentially, whether it be mentally or physically – or even both – ultimately causing one to wonder the price one has to pay for freedom. While the documentary is intimately focused focused on Tarek and Hamid, the hellish endurance the civilians suffer is never once diluted. Even if you are not entirely familiar with the Libyan Civil War bar a few facts and some names, you won’t feel lost because because it is thematically universal.
The final shots are haunting, and while the film’s low budget is more than apparent, it certainly adds to the grittiness and immediacy amongst the pandemonium. It doesn’t need any airs and graces or glossy cinematography to create a sense of tangibility and camaraderie. It’s already there.
Watch the trailer of First to Fall here: