Is hero worship a legitimate pastime or posture for documentaries? Return to Homs comes close to myth-building. The value of this graphic dispatch from Syria’s civil-war frontline – up close and visceral, seismic with shell and sniper fire – will be enhanced or vitiated, according to judgment, by its obsession with one man.
Abdul Basit Saroot, Syrian youth team goalie turned 19-year-old resistance hero, is dynamic, handsome and apparently inextinguishable (though the enemy has tried). In the fight-back against Assad’s forces, he may well be the virtual one-man army depicted by Syrian documentarist Talal Derki. Not knowing, though, we must take it on trust. Sometimes we want the camera to look around at least at other contenders. Extraordinary as the war footage is – an inferno of sudden death and desperate survival – the relationship between lens and main love object is at once too cosy and too evangelistic: missionary-position moviemaking, energised into moments of true or seeming passion by the throes of the strife-torn Shakicam.
This article has been amended since original publication to reflect the fact that Talal Derki is Syrian, not Greek as originally stated.