Saving Syria’s Children: The Director’s Cut?

As well as cameraman and producer, Darren “DC” Conway (OBE) is credited as director of the 2013 BBC Panorama special Saving Syria’s Children.

To me the term “director” – suggestive as it is of the staging of mock events with actors – belongs more properly to the realm of cinema fiction and jars somewhat when applied to a supposed documentary film. It is, however, apparently a thing.

Semantic prejudice aside, scrutiny of the sequence from 35:53 to 36:24 in Saving Syria’s Children reveals that “DC” may have delegated some of his directorial duties.

Meet Barry: [1]


As you can see, Barry is gazing with earnest intent directly into the camera. Which of course means he is gazing with earnest intent directly at Saving Syria’s Children auteur/factotum DC. But what’s going on with Barry’s pointy finger?


Let’s take a look at the clip (click image below for link to OneDrive upload):


Now let’s break it down and see what may be happening here (bear with me, there’s quite a lot to unpack):


The guy in the white shirt – let’s call him Freddie – interrupts Dr Rola Hallam’s piece to camera, accompanied by his supposed daughter – we’ll call her Susan [2]. The Hand of Barry is immediately in evidence.


Barry doesn’t want Darren “DC” Conway (OBE), Saving Syria’s Children cameraman/ producer/ director/ tinker/ tailor/ soldier etc to miss any of this, so eye contact is firmly established…


…and the Hand of Barry guides the way….


… steadfast in the eye of the storm….


… you getting all this Darren?…


…here comes the money shot…


OK, now he’s going off piste…


“Hey, hey…”




“Don’t hog the scene… she’s the star…”


“…let them see Susan”




“Oh, yeah, Susan…”


“Look at Susan….”


“Look at her!”


“Why I’m gonna…”




“… leave it Susan, they ain’t worth it!”


“… on second thoughts – yes they are, hutch up…”


“Incidentally, I hope this mauling isn’t painful, what with you having just been sprayed with napalm”


“‘K Fred, we’re done here…”


“Jeez – there’s chewing the scenery, then there’s this…”


“You got all that Darren?”


“‘K Fred…”


“You did good… we’ll call you…”




… aaaand cut. [3]

The Hand of Barry also manifests at 2:10 in the related BBC News report of 30 September 2013, just as the highly incongruous European guy carrying a camera (elsewhere a walky talky) ducks out of shot – most probably at Barry’s behest. Even amid the “chaos and carnage” of an alleged “mass casualty event“, the most pressing concern is that Dr Rola’s honeyed tones flow unimpeded. [4]

giphy (11)


The unwavering Hand of Barry, clad in the distinctive Striped Polo Shirt of Barry

Further, it seems likely that Freddie was shepherded into position for his moment of glory by the ministrations of Barry’s guiding hand: as he approaches the gate, our Fred overshoots and only after some off-screen course correction does he manage to finally home in on his spot at Rola’s right hand:

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Poor Barry! While Darren “DC” Conway (OBE), Saving Syria’s Children’s cameraman/ producer/ director/ North Utsire/ South Utsire/ Winds Light to Variable gets all the accolades – including an Emmy, the David Bloom Award (twice), RTS Camera Operator of the Year and, of course, a gong from Madge – all Barry ever received was the RSI.

Come on Darren – surely you could chuck Barry a bone – he really cared, you know!


The Gong Show starring “DC”

Update, 11 January 2017: the short clip from Saving Syria’s Children referenced in this post has been swiftly blocked on You Tube by BBC Worldwide, as has a substituted copy – see here and here. In its place I have included a link to this copy uploaded to One Drive. For more on BBC Worldwide’s apparently selective blocking of copies of Saving Syria’s Children, over and above other editions of Panorama, see here. (In recent months I had, surprisingly, found it possible to upload several short clips from the programme to You Tube without their being blocked, until now).

A full copy of Saving Syria’s Children is available on Vimeo here. The “napalm bomb” sequence commences at 30:38 and the specific sequence discussed above at 35:52.


[1] (Probably) not his real name. The nod is to Barry Levinson, director of Wag the Dog, which pertains here for pretty obvious reasons. I toyed with Sidney, but the BBC’s budget could evidently only stretch to a single angry man, paling besides Mr Lumet’s dozen.

[2] In tribute to the author of The Woman in Black, Susan Hill, CBE. (That’s higher than an OBE. Sorry, Darren).

[3] Immediately after this scene we’re treated to an earlier shot of Susan’s arrival at the hospital, wherein she conspicuously requires the services of five burly men to stretcher her from the back of an ambulance. This is somewhat surprising, considering she’d managed to board the same vehicle entirely unaided and had begun her journey seated vertically. But, as her energetic performance above demonstrates, it takes more than a mere “napalm-type” substance to keep Sue off her feet (or from stomping them frenziedly).


She’s up, she’s down.. she’s up again

Freddie too, is a man of unquenchable spirits, popping up moments before his keynote performance above, hallooing vigourously over the hospital wall to persons and for reasons unknown (see 35:45 in Saving Syria’s Children).


[4] Whatever else Dr Hallam may be, she’s certainly no cyclist: that mask isn’t going to keep anything out, be it sarin gas or Hyde Park Corner particulate matter, unless she pinches the metal strip firmly around her nose.

About Robert Stuart

Researching the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria's Children and associated BBC News reports.

8 responses to “Saving Syria’s Children: The Director’s Cut?

  1. Robert Lewis

    Hi Robert,

    I don’t know what the password is for this article. If you ever sent it to me, I forgot what it was. Can you help me read it?

    Thanks, and all best for 2017,

    Rob Lewis

    • Hi Robert – the password protection is just temporary, while a friend proofs the piece – unfortunately I have to “publish” in order to generate a link to email it to her.. I will “republish” later today or tomorrow which I hope will generate another email to followers, but in any case the password protection will be gone soon. Best, Robert.

  2. Posted this via all available Links.

  3. Pingback: BBC Worldwide has been swift to block the short excerpt from Saving Syria’s Children included here. I have now replaced it with a OneDrive uploadAlternative News Network | Alternative News Network

  4. Pingback: BBC Worldwide has been swift to block the short excerpt from Saving Syria’s Children included here. I have now replaced it with a OneDrive upload - Political Bias

  5. Pingback: Saving Syria’s Children: How the BBC are embedding their journalists with Jihadist groups in Syria – Road To Somewhere Else

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