Mikhail Galustov

Inside ISIS’s Final Fight
Filmed in Syria
Commissioned by Vice News Tonight

Entry details.

In a deserted farmhouse on the Deir Ezzor frontline, a group of Arab YPG fighters and foreign volunteers took up position on the edge of Islamic State territory, firing wildly from the hollow windows onto ISIS fighters hiding below. Unseen from the house, ISIS militants crept forward into the building’s garden, launching a sudden assault on this isolated position. After years of bloody conflict across northern and eastern Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have pushed ISIS to the brink of total defeat. The remaining ISIS fighters now wait out their days in a cluster of tiny villages near the Iraqi border. Surrounded, outnumbered, and outgunned, the jihadist group’s last diehard fighters aren’t giving up. And they’re being met by US-backed forces and foreign volunteers, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles for the final fight. On the map, the war against the Islamic State is all but won. But here in the Euphrates river valley, these fighters are likely to face many more sudden ambushes and assaults, even after the battle for Baghuz is won.


Currently based in Moscow, Mikhail started out as a photographer and writer at a suburban Moscow newspaper in 1998. He later worked as a staff photographer with the Russian daily Kommersant and freelanced for TIME, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harpers, GQ and Rolling Stone in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He took up film in 2010, working as a documentary cameraman and director of photography across the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Judges comments.

“The remarkable thing was, given the conditions and the intensity of the fighting in which he was shooting the material, it was beautifully framed and incredibly steady. Quite often in those circumstances the camera moves around a lot as camera operators are trying to track the action. Galustov let the action take place through the film, and it was remarkably powerful and beautiful to look at.”

Jonathan Levy
Director of Newsgathering, Sky News (CHAIR)