Syrian ‘Hero Boy’ Video

A viral video purportedly showed a Syrian 'hero boy' faking death under sniper fire to save a little girl.

  • Published 14 November 2014

Claim

A video shows a Syrian "hero boy" walking into sniper fire and playing dead to save a young girl.

Rating

Origin

On 10 November 2014, a video clip that came to be commonly known as the “Syrian hero boy” video began to circulate on social media sites. In that video, a young boy appeared to run bravely into sniper fire and rescue an even younger female child:

During the roughly one-minute long video, the child seemingly either sustained or feigned gunshot wounds, and about halfway through the clip the boy fell to the ground as snipers continued shooting around him. Seconds later, he ran to a pink-clad young girl and transported her to apparent safety.

When the video first began to circulate, BBC contributor Amira Galal observed that the boy’s reaction when he was purportedly hit seemed suspicious. However, Galal opined, whether the footage was real or staged, it appeared to have genuinely originated in Syria:

When [the Syrian boy is] shot we do not see him reeling or falling backwards due to the impact [of the bullet], in fact he falls forwards.

We can definitely say it is Syria and we can definitely probably say it’s on the resumed frontlines.

After the “Syrian hero boy” clip was viewed millions of times, the Norwegian Film Institute (which partially funded the film) urged Norwegian filmmaker Lars Klevberg to clarify the video’s backstory. Klevberg contacted the BBC and admitted the video was not authentic, revealing the footage had been staged in May 2014 in Malta. The Oslo-based filmmaker said his team wanted to draw attention to the plight of children in war-torn Syria:

If I could make a film and pretend it was real, people would share it and react with hope. We shot it in Malta in May this year on a set that was used for other famous movies like Troy and Gladiator. The little boy and girl are professional actors from Malta. The voices in the background are Syrian refugees living in Malta.

Klevberg proclaimed he and his team had no reservations about deceiving viewers of the “Syrian hero boy” video:

By publishing a clip that could appear to be authentic we hoped to take advantage of a tool that’s often used in war; make a video that claims to be real. We wanted to see if the film would get attention and spur debate, first and foremost about children and war. We also wanted to see how the media would respond to such a video.

Producer John Einar Hagen also acknowledged the video’s creators and backers had debated the ethical implications of presenting the fictional footage as authentic to viewers: “The children surviving gunshots was supposed to send small clues that it was not real. We had long discussions with the film’s financiers about the ethics around making a film like this.”

Klevberg noted the film had prompted debate, which was the original intent of its creators.

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