Syrian 'sniper rescue boy' clip revealed as Norwegian hoax

A viral video purporting to have shown a Syrian boy rescuing a young girl while under sniper fire has been revealed as a hoax made by Norwegian filmmakers.

The video, which had attracted over 3.8m YouTube views since being posted to the site earlier this month, apparently showed the young boy being shot before rescuing the girl, against a backdrop of male voices speaking Arabic.

However it has been revealed to have been entirely staged - shot last May in Malta by a Norwegian independent film company on the same set used for blockbuster productions such as 'Gladiator' and 'Troy', and featuring professional actors as the main stars and Malta-based Syrian refugees as the background actors.

Its makers came clean last night, saying their intention had been to draw a spotlight on the plight of kids on conflict zones, and that they had deliberately left clues in the footage to prompt questions as to its authenticity.

Here's the clip, which went viral after being reposted to the YouTube account of the Damascus-based Shaam Network, a channel which regularly features 'citizen journalism' footage from Syria and other conflict zones.

"The film aimed to focus everyone's attention on children living in war zones," director Lars Klevberg said on Twitter.

"The children are the innocent victims during times of war," he added, saying the film had been produced "to get the media's attention".

It certainly succeeded in that regard, and while many media outlets questioned the authenticity of the clip from the outset, or sought to have indepenedent verification, others did not.

"The motivation behind the production and the Internet release of the film was to spur debate, urge action on behalf of innocent children all over the world who are affected by war," Klevberg, 34, said in a press release posted on Twitter.

"We are pleased that the film spread widely and that the debate has indeed focused on the children's lives during war."

However critics have accused the filmmakers of being "irresponsible and dangerous", saying that passing the footage off as real is ethically unsound.

“I think the filmmakers have been highly irresponsible, have contributed nothing to the debate about violence against civilians in Syria, and have only created more distrust in videos from conflict zones,” UK-based journalist Eliot Higgins [url]told GlobalPost[/url].

“There's more than enough footage from Syria that is genuine to not have to make fake incidents to make some contribution to a debate."

It has also emerged that the film received 280,000 kroner (around €33,000) in official funding from the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) and the Norway Arts Council.

A spokesperson for the NFI said the organisation had had "lots of ethical discussions and talks about the project".

"Their intention was never to deceive people at all, and neither was mine,"" NFI film commissioner for short film Ase Meyer told AFP.

"The main motivation was to focus on children and make a fictional story using the narrative language from authentic film, but of course I see this has really gone much bigger than they thought."

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