OF FATHERS AND SONS
At the outset of Talal Derki’s chilling exposé of children groomed to become jihadi soldiers, the Syrian documentarian echoes his father’s advice: that he should record his nightmares to prevent them from resurfacing. For more than two years, Derki posed as a photojournalist with jihadi sympathies to infiltrate and document the Islamic extremism of Abu Osama, a founder of Al-Nusra — the Syrian faction of Al-Qaeda — as he prepares his eight preteen sons for war. With unbridled access, Derki probes an environment of radicalism in which combing for active landmines is a daily activity, the Koran is the primary study tool, and homemade bombs are toys. Unflinching and galvanizing, Derki’s portrait of innocence lost, if innocence was ever there at all, won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. – Jesse Knight
Talal Derki was born in Damascus. He studied film directing in Athens and worked for feature film productions and Arab TV programs, and as a freelance cameraman for CNN and Thomson Reuters. His feature documentary RETURN TO HOMS won Sundance Film Festival's World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in 2014.