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First to Fall

First to Fall is an intimate story of friendship, sacrifice, and the madness of war. It bears witness to the irreversible transformation of two friends, and the price they pay for their convictions. Hamid and Tarek leave their lives as students in Canada and travel to Libya, their homeland, to join the fight to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. They pledge to make it to the front line despite neither of them having ever picked up a weapon. A second-hand video camera becomes Hamid's ticket to the front where he documents battles to liberate Misrata, a city famous for the ferocity of its citizens. Hamid eventually earns a gun and becomes a fully-fledged soldier with an AK-47 in one hand and his video camera in the other. Meanwhile Tarek joins a training camp and eventually a katiba (freedom fighter battalion) in Misrata. In a battle to liberate Zawya, his hometown, Tarek's life will change forever. Filmmaker Rachel Beth Anderson bears witness to Tarek and Hamid's incredible odyssey, as they navigate a brutal guerrilla war to liberate Libya from 40 years of tyranny.

After 42 years of dictatorship, Libyans rose up against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during what became known as the Arab Spring. The armed conflict that ensued saw horrific abuses, mostly by government forces, but also by some anti-Gaddafi rebels. Human Rights Watch documented attacks on civilians, executions of prisoners, and the use of cluster munitions and land mines in populated areas. After Gaddafi's fall, successive interim governments failed to build a state based on the rule of law. Abuses are rife, especially by the armed groups that initially formed to fight Gaddafi but have refused to lay down their arms.