Interviewed by Aimee Coelho, MA Journalism Falmouth University
Fadi Al Halabi has covered the complex social and political divisions sparking violence in Syria since 2012. This body of work has won him a place as finalist for the Martin Adler Prize, which honours international news reporting, in this year’s Rory Peck Awards.
For Al Halabi, it’s a highly personal story: he was born and brought up in Aleppo. As Syrian government forces advanced, supported by Russian firepower, Al Halabi documented the city’s resistance for Channel 4 News. His reporting focused on the human angle, showing the trauma of civilians whose lives were ruined by violence. Al Halabi said he was careful to build a relationship with the people he featured.
“I like to find a hero in all of my stories and my process in doing this is to prepare the characters psychologically, connecting with them and gaining their trust before filming,” he explained.
Al Halabi worked as a cinematographer on the Oscar-winning documentary White Helmets and on the Oscar-nominated film Last Men in Aleppo, but in 2016 he was forced to flee the city. He moved to the rebel-held area of Idlib, where he works as a video journalist and occasionally as a producer for visiting camera crews, guiding them through the conflict zone. In both roles, security is a constant concern.
“I really try not to be in dangerous areas if I don’t need to,” said Al Halabi.
His knowledge of the complex and shifting relationships between warring groups in the area is invaluable as he continues reporting Syria’s protracted conflict. Al Halabi said many Syrians have lost hope in seeing an end to the nine-year war.
“Syrians in general no longer believe in the usefulness of what journalists do, as the realities on the ground just aren’t changing. I have to convince them of the importance of documenting what is happening and ensuring the truth reaches the world.”