On Aug. 21, 2013, filmmaker Humam Husari woke up to one of the most horrific attacks of the Syrian civil war.

The rebel-held region of Ghouta outside Damascus, Syria, was hit by rockets containing sarin gas, a deadly chemical generally considered to be a weapon of mass destruction.

The number of casualties is still uncertain according to the United Nations, but estimates range from 281 to around 1,400 casualties with 3,000 wounded.


Syrian director Humam Husari (right) and cameraman Sami al-Shami (center) film a scene. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

"Survivors reported that following an attack with shelling, they quickly experienced a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, disorientation, eye irritation, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and general weakness," reported UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Husari told Al Jazeera he heard car horns and ambulances that morning and saw on Facebook that the attacks happened just a few miles from his home.

He grabbed his video camera and started filming wounded victims in a nearby field hospital.

"I wasn't filming because I am a cameraman, I was filming because this is the only thing I could do for the victims," he told Reuters in 2016.

Journalists rushed to the scene to document the attack. Many of them did not survive because of exposure to the deadly gas. Husari was fortunate enough to survive.

"You don't have the chance to grieve. You don't have the chance to be sad," Husari told Al Jazeera in 2013. "You can just be panicked or worried, and feel helpless."

After the attacks, Husari continued to work as a journalist covering the war. "I feel I have a responsibility in the future to tell this story, these stories, through cinema and drama. That's usually what happens after every war," he told Reuters.

Husari (center left) and al-Shami (center right) operate a camera for a scene in Zamalka, in the Damascus suburbs. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

In 2016, Husari began production on a short film based on real events during the attacks.

The film was shot in Zamalka, a suburb where several rockets struck during the attack. He used local people who survived the attacks, all of whom were either witnesses or victims.

The self-financed film follows a man who loses his wife and child in the attacks and was denied time to bury them. He is then called up to take up arms to defend their region.

Making the film is a necessary experience for Husari.

It offers him an opportunity to process what he went through and also show the world as well.

Actors perform in the Husari-directed film. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

It was an emotional experience making the film. "I was amazed with how much those people were able to express their tragedy and to cooperate with me on this movie," he told Reuters.

People re-enact the attack in a scene from the film. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

Despite all they’ve been through, they were willing to re-enact these terrible events to give voice to those who perished.

Husari told Reuters, "A 70-year-old man said to me: 'I want to be part of this movie because I lost 13 of my family ... I want the world to know what we've been through.'"

The short film involved local people who witnessed the attack. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters.

The film's star Mohamed Demashki, a former business student and bodybuilder, told Reuters, "It tries to convey to the world that the people who live here are not just fighters, they are not terrorists. They are people with a life. The war conditions them to become fighters," he said.

The Syrian government still denies responsibility for the Ghouta chemical attack.

The film will hopefully help the world understand the plight of everyday people in Syria.

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