July 11, 2017, 7:00 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Outside the Box [Office], Amazon Studios, A&E Indie Films, and IFC Films, invite you and a guest to a special preview screening of

City of Ghosts

Directed by Matthew Heineman
Produced by Matthew Heineman, Juan Camilo Cruz,
Matthew Hamachek, Joedan Okun, and Maya Seidler

Followed by a Q&A with Matthew Heineman

7:00 P.M. on Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


Official Selection: 2017 Sundance Film Festival, 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, 2017 Hot Docs Film Festival.

Opens in LA at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood on Friday, July 14th, 2017.

About City of Ghosts

Directed, produced, and filmed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land), City of Ghosts follows the journey of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" - a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. This is the story of a group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.

Provided courtesy of Amazon Studios, A&E Indie Films, and IFC Films. Not rated. Running time: 91 minutes. In English and Arabic, with English subtitles.

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Director's Statement

As I was traveling with my last film Cartel Land, the plight of Syria was becoming a near daily part of the newscycle. I almost obsessively began reading about what was happening with the so-called Islamic State. But I couldn’t find an angle on the story. In the fall of 2015, I read an article about Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of citizen activists who came together to document the atrocities that ISIS was committing in their hometown – dubbed the capital of the Islamic State. I was struck by the sacrifices that they had endured as a group, and I knew their story could provide an intimate, character driven window into life under ISIS.

I made contact with members of RBSS, attempted to gain their trust, and soon began filming with them. I knew almost immediately that I wanted the spine of the story to be deeply personal verité footage, captured as the activists escaped Syria after the assassination of several members by ISIS. I followed them in Turkey and then eventually to Europe as ISIS continued to threaten them.

I knew that I wanted to juxtapose this present day journey with the dramatic footage they had captured, and were continuing to capture, inside Raqqa. Since ISIS took over the city in March 2014, journalists have been unable to enter the region, allowing the caliphate to control the narrative of what is happening inside the city with its slick propaganda videos. So, RBSS’s footage – including some that has never been released – provides a unique, up close, and visceral window into daily life in Raqqa.

The contrast of ISIS’s videos, which proclaim a fully-functioning and prosperous state, with those of RBSS, which captured the dysfunction and violence of everyday life, is shocking. In a sense, it’s a war of ideas, a war of propaganda, a war being waged with cameras and computers, not just guns.

Over the year that I spent with the group, I was surprised that the film became so much more than the chronicles of RBSS versus ISIS. The more I shot with them, the more the story twisted and turned into one that also touched on the immigrant experience, the strength of brotherhood, and one’s haunting relationship with trauma.

And now America, Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and local militias are poised to challenge ISIS in Raqqa in what maybe a bloody and months-long military campaign. While this battle will surely be front-page news, there will be a no less important information war waged by groups like RBSS playing out on the ground, behind the scenes. It’s this ideological battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation that may end up having the most lasting impact on the fight against terrorism.

-- Matthew Heineman

About the Guest

MATTHEW HEINEMAN (Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor)

Matthew Heineman is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker based in New York. His film Cartel Land was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and won three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking and Best Cinematography. The film premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where Heineman won the Best Director Award and Special Jury Prize for Cinematography.

The film was released theatrically nationwide by The Orchard in July 2015 and had its broadcast premiere on A&E in January 2016. Heineman won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary Award from the Director’s Guild of America for the film, as well as the Courage Under Fire Award from the International Documentary Association “in recognition of conspicuous bravery in the pursuit of truth.” He was also named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015. In addition, Cartel Land was nominated for a Gotham Award, Critics’ Choice Award, and BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, and was recently presented with the 2015 Documentary Award by the prestigious George Polk Awards in Investigative Journalism.

Previously, he directed and produced a feature-length documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. It premiered at Sundance 2012, won numerous awards at festivals across the country, and was released by Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate to critical praise in October 2012. The film premiered on CNN in March 2013, and was subsequently nominated for an Emmy.

Heineman collaborated for two years with a team at HBO on the groundbreaking, Emmy-nominated HBO series, The Alzheimer's Project, which aired in May 2009. He also directed and produced Our Time – a feature length documentary about what it's like to be young in today's America. Heineman has directed several short films and commercials and is in development on a few different projects.

About Outside the Box [Office]

Outside the Box [Office] is a weekly showcase for upcoming releases highlighting world cinema, documentary and independent film titles. Recognizing a need for greater diversity on campus, the series will draw from around the globe to present movies that may challenge, inspire or simply entertain.

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Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $12.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Ave. We recommend Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago