'FRONTLINE: Inside Assad's Syria'
(DVD / PG / 2016 / PBS)
Overview: Correspondent Martin Smith goes inside Syria to report from government-controlled areas as war rages. With on-the-ground reporting and firsthand accounts from Syrians caught in the crisis, the film shines new light on the ongoing conflict.
DVD Verdict: For weeks, the world's eyes have been fixed on the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria for Europe. But what is life like for those left behind? Correspondent Martin Smith goes Inside Assad's Syria to report from government-controlled areas as war rages, with on-the-ground reporting and firsthand accounts from Syrians caught in the crisis.
As usual, Frontline’s signature narration comes in the introduction from Will Lyman, whose every utterance sounds like incontestable truth. As a leading brand in documentary production and investigative journalism, Frontline presents itself — with varying degrees of success — as factual, unbiased, and free from the influence of the political agendas that distort a lot of news coverage. It caters to an audience that wants to understand the issues behind the headlines — viewers who are skeptical about official statements and partisan interpretations.
This is what makes Frontline influential — the level of trust it has won. But at the same time, Frontline’s credibility can on occasions be the very reason that a story, badly told, can be so harmful. If, before broadcasting his film, Smith had invited the regime to vet his production, I suspect it would have received their unqualified approval. After all, the evidence suggests that PBS is more effective in boosting support for Assad than are many of his own media operatives. Hey, if the truth hurts, so be it, but I think that everyone knows where they stand on this conversation. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.