A few days ago I saw a remarkable video from Syria of a young boy feigning injury twice to save a girl. The video got the name “Syrian hero boy” and has been seen a few million times.
It scares me that a governmentally funded institute, like the Norwegian Film Institute, could fund such a film. And just as horrible is it that they had to urged the filmmaker, Lars Klevberg, to clarify the video’s backstory. Klevberg contacted the BBC and admitted the video was not authentic, revealing the footage had been filmed in May 2014, not in Syria but in Malta. The Oslo-based filmmaker said his team wanted to draw attention to the plight of children in war-torn Syria:
If I could make a film and pretend it was real, people would share it and react with hope. We shot it in Malta in May this year on a set that was used for other famous movies like Troy and Gladiator. The little boy and girl are professional actors from Malta. The voices in the background are Syrian refugees living in Malta.
Klevberg proclaimed he and his team had no reservations about deceiving viewers of the “Syrian hero boy” video:
By publishing a clip that could appear to be authentic we hoped to take advantage of a tool that’s often used in war; make a video that claims to be real. We wanted to see if the film would get attention and spur debate, first and foremost about children and war. We also wanted to see how the media would respond to such a video.
Producer John Einar Hagen also acknowledged the video’s creators and backers had debated the ethical implications of presenting the fictional footage as authentic to viewers:
The children surviving gunshots was supposed to send small clues that it was not real. We had long discussions with the film’s financiers about the ethics around making a film like this.
This is so horrible! Next time we see something horrible from Syria, can we then blame people for asking if the recording is real or not? My take is that the coverage from the war in Syria has often focused on the children, not only on Norwegian NRK and TV2, but also BBC. I guess that other TV channels have done the same. Journalists that have risked their own lifes for the recordings and then comes somebody living the good life, the movie makers, and make a fake movie. The least they could have done was to state that the video was not authentic in the beginning or the end of it. The Norwegian Film Institute should take another round on the ethics, when their thoughts simply were that children surviving gunshots were supposed to send small clues about the whole thing not being real… Then you haven’t understood much! You have also missed the opportunity to debate children and war, as the debate rather started on how could such a film be made in the first place!