EXCLUSIVE: It is early days, but Smokehouse Pictures partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov are developing a narrative feature from The White Helmets, the Orlando von Einsiedel-directed documentary about one of the bravest groups of first responders imaginable. The White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, is a group of unarmed, politically neutral local volunteers who rush in when the Russian-backed Assad regime rains fire from the skies in its ongoing battle against rebel forces. Helicopters drop bombs on residential structures, including schools and hospitals, trapping innocent inhabitants in the demolished concrete. The White Hats dig furiously and tirelessly through the rubble, where they drag out survivors.
The Netflix documentary has been shortlisted for the Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar, and the group was featured on last night’s 60 Minutes broadcast. According to both the docu and 60 Minutes, these politically neutral volunteers — ordinary craftsman who leave their own families behind to run toward the danger — have saved an estimated 70,000 victims of war over five years in Syria, but have lost 154 of the 2900 first responders in the process. Syrian and Russian troops often deliberately target them, flying over neighborhoods they’ve bombed, specifically to hit them again in an attempt to wipe out the rescuers.
Smokehouse, which has covered hot-button topical fare including Syriana and Argo, will set a writer to develop a script, and try to make it work as a narrative drama. CAA is repping the docu.
Here is a trailer from the docu: