Orlando von Einsiedel is a director, producer and writer who is most well-known for his short documentaries. His 2014 documentary, Virunga, was his first Oscar nomination. The film was the tenth Netflix original documentary ever made, and it explored the last of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park. Orlando is also known for his 2012 film Aisha’s Song, a documentary which follows Aisha Sani Abdullahi and her life in Nigeria.
Orlando’s latest nomination, however, is for his documentary The White Helmets, a 40 minute film which shows the volunteer rescue workers in Syria risking their lives to save the civilian victims trapped under debris and rubble in the bomb-stricken country. The White Helmets has received very high critical acclaim, with Julia Raeside describing it as “a film you need to see to begin to understand day-to-day life in war-torn Syria”, and Jack Moore describing The White Helmets as “also succeed[ing] in the delicate balancing act of impartiality.”
It is, it seems, this impartiality which makes the Orlando’s documentary such an informative and poignant glance into the war-stricken country. The film completely avoids dehumanising the Syrian people in order to show the politics behind the war, and instead focuses on the lives of the individuals and the devastation that surrounds them. Simple shots of a father and son playing with a bicycle helmet, with the father’s voice over describing the importance of family to him, are not commercial or being used to evoke a false sense of empathy from the viewer. Instead it reminds the viewer that The White Helmets and their families, friends and other Syrian civilians are ordinary people with real lives and personalities caught up in conflict and crisis. It is all to easy to analyse the political aspects of war, and forget about those who instead are only focusing on day-to-day survival.
More information about Orlando’s university course and The University of Manchester in general can be found on the University website.