For Syrian filmmaker Firas Fayyad, showing the daily lives of the people of Aleppo before its fall was a responsibility that couldn’t be ignored.

Fayyad experienced the worst of the Assad regime: imprisoned in November 2011, he was tortured for months and now lives in exile.

Interviewed by Italian journalist Maria Gianniti in Perugia, Fayyad recounts being arrested, questioned and electrocuted.

Only a few days after a deadly attack on civilians in Syria, in which at least 70 people were killed in a chemical attack near Idlib, in the country’s northwest, Fayyad talked of his country’s civil war and the importance of looking at the consequences of civilians rather than the political games.

His latest documentary, Last Men in Aleppo, is a gruelling account of the last days of a city under siege, which was recognised with a Grand Jury Prize for documentary at this year’s Sundance film festival.

It follows the rescue work of the White Helmets, perhaps the last ray of hope left for the civilians trapped in the city.

“I wanted to show the life of the people of Aleppo. It’s not normal anymore, but we pretend it is” he told Gianniti in front of an audience at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia.

But conveying the “fear and the inner conflict about leaving or staying” that Syrians experience is an important theme in Fayyad’s work.

“Nobody looked at the people who were suffering, the things that made people leave the country” he added.

In one telling scene of the documentary, Khaled, one of the founding members of the White Helmets in Aleppo, goes to buy fish to make a pond, as they struggle to keep daily life flowing in the middle of the death and destruction that surrounds them.