Full Frame: Talal Derki Daringly Infiltrates a Jihadist Community in Of Fathers and Sons | Arts
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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Full Frame: Talal Derki Daringly Infiltrates a Jihadist Community in Of Fathers and Sons

Posted by on Sat, Apr 7, 2018 at 10:03 AM

click to enlarge Of Fathers and Sons - PHOTO COURTESY OF OFFATHERSANDSONS.COM
  • photo courtesy of offathersandsons.com
  • Of Fathers and Sons
Of Fathers and Sons
★★★★
Friday, April 6
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham


Have you ever glimpsed life inside a radical Islamic caliphate? If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t. Anyone who has is most likely still living inside it, not sharing its story with the world. Though they are an extreme minority to the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims, jihadists magnetize global media attention with their egregiously violent acts. Still, we seldom see their day-to-day life. Journalists and documentarians can't just walk in and out of radical Islamic communities.

Well, not unless they have the daring to temporarily play the role, as Talal Derki does. Derki’s new documentary, Of Fathers and Sons, gives us rare insight into the lifestyle of jihadists in Syria. A Syrian who fled the country in the wake of war in his youth, Derki befriended an extremist community under the pretense of being a war photographer who sympathized with the jihadist cause and wanted to capture it for the advancement of the Islamic state. The result isn’t the usual terrifying media footage of bombs falling or people fleeing in the streets. All of that is happening off camera—missiles screeching overhead, rifles firing nearby, mines detonating around the corner—as everyday life enfolds.

This is an intimate portrait of a father, his sons, and the lives they have dedicated to Al-Nusra, a Syrian Al-Qaeda equivalent. It offers a kind of disquieting shock with a version of mundanity that is almost unrecognizable to us. It takes place in an almost post-apocalyptic landscape where women are explicitly the slaves of men, boys rummage around in the playthings of war generals and dream of martyrdom, music on the radio glorifies human slaughter, and land mines are destined to blow off appendages. For all its repellent moments, Of Fathers and Sons cultivates a sharp sense of dread and empathy for the children born into such a world. It is their isolation that will lead them to continue the vicious, cruel tradition that Derki offers a dangerous look inside.


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