ISIS is on the move in Southeast Asia. In an attempt to claim additional territory and indoctrinate more followers to their cause, the terrorist organization is bombarding the city of Marawi in the South Philippines. The city, however, is not taking the attempted invasion lying down. Produced by ABC News Australia, Escape from Marawi stands on the front line of this bloody standoff as one of their reporters finds himself in the crossfire.
After months of planning, ISIS has effectively overtaken the city. Most of the 250,000 residents have fled, and the ones who remain life in constant danger. Innocent casualties are a regular occurrence. Armed forces make daily attempts to eliminate the threat and regain control of the city, but they are frequently overwhelmed by ISIS snipers from above and underground.
The city is primed to become the next hotbed of extremism from which many global acts of terror will spread. A significant portion of this threat comes from within, specifically from a pair of Marawi brothers who have joined forces with ISIS under the guise of their own separatist group.
This is trench warfare at its most brutal, and the ABC News crew remains right in the thick of it. But like all soldiers and bystanders, their safety is by no means guaranteed. Andy Harvey, the film’s central reporter, is struck by an M16 bullet to the neck. What follows is a tense and perilous race to find proper medical attention far from the blaze of terrorist gunfire. There is no safe zone in a war-torn city like Marawi, even the local hospital that struggles to treat a daily influx of wounded fighters and civilians.
Beyond portraying the deeply personal trauma of possibly losing one of their own, the makers of Escape from Marawi show us how ISIS manages to take an entire city through meticulous organizing, merciless force and campaigns of persuasive propaganda. We witness the challenges of ordinary citizens who are caught in the middle, and of an overwhelmed defence force who often can’t tell the difference between an ally and a traitor. The stakes couldn’t be higher for those in front of or behind the camera.