Of Fathers and Sons


Documentary / War

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 94%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 67%
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 1461


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February 24, 2019 at 09:44 AM



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1hr 39 min
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1hr 39 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by unclesamsavage 7 / 10

A Truly Enlightening Documentary

Talal Derki's homeland is in disarray. He travels back to uncover the complex web Jihadists from ISIS and al-Nusra have spun in response to the enemies of God. Following the family of one minesweeper for the al-Nusra front, the film has a disturbing yet enlightening effect. This father passes his core fanatical beliefs onto his three sons. They are a tightly knit family, but the father's teachings play out in more consequential ways than he might have imagined. The eldest son, Osama, named after the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, is particularly disruptive among his schoolmates. The two younger sons are fostered to think violence for the sake of violence is acceptable because God willed it so. It is very tragic to witness the path these boys are led down only to become part of a war machine that may never succeed against more technologically advanced world superpowers. I highly recommend watching this documentary if you want to take a much deeper look into the Global War on Terrorism and how Islamist extremists are cultured.

Reviewed by sergioumuaythaibox 7 / 10

Skeptical - Real Issues but still Skeptical

The documentary is good, very very good. Talks about real issues definitely but there are some things which bothered me. Placement of cameras. Did he use hidden cameras? Sometimes there were some cameras seen which meant there were more than one camera. People talked candidly yet at times they seemed to be aware of camera presence and yet, not look into it. Passing glances at the best. Following children around without any of their guardians. Consistency was a problem too. Towards the end, the hair would grow or become short from scene to scene. Training camp videos, that looks very dubious. How come these people allowed him and the cameras inside the training camp, even though the faces were covered in ski masks. And the ski masks, which had ISIS logo on them. Did they order it from Alibaba? Who is funding all that, this question was never asked. While the documentary has touched the right subject and has shown the reality, it appeared scripted and acted, taking away the feel of scary doc, being filmed in the heart of these war mongers.

Reviewed by zkonedog 9 / 10

An Unprecedented Look At "The Other Side"

In the post-9/11 world that we all live in, there is a lot of talk thrown around about jihadism. Some of it in historical context, some of it in war-mongering context, and pretty much everything in between. However, one thing that rarely (if ever) gets scene is the day-to-day life activities of people who consider themselves to be jihadists. That is what documentarian Talal Derki accomplishes, somewhat remarkably, in "Of Fathers and Sons".

The setup to this documentary is that Derki returns to his homeland of Syria (where he was born) under the pretense of being a "war photojournalist" and is harbored by Abu Osama and his family. In reality, though, his goal is to film this subversive doc and give viewers a portrait of jihadist life in Syria.

Besides opening and closing narrations, this entire film is presented essentially "without comment". The camera never turns back to Derki or includes any sort of monologue or opinion on the matters at hand. That is completely left up to the viewer, and in this case there is much to think about.

On one hand, it is easy to see why this type of lifestyle could be considered "backwards" or misconstrued into hatred. Abu names his son Osama in honor of the 9/11 attacks, an immediate window into the Osama family outlook. One's entire lifespan seems to be devoted to a war cause, women are nonexistent at best and heavily persecuted at worst, while the children are raised in an environment of constant bullying and physical confrontation. One gets the sense that these people are sort of "brainwashed into their cause" with no hope for peace even existing.

But then, there is the more human side of things portrayed just as stark. Despite harboring ideologies that are likely extremely different (if not usually outright offensive) to most Americans, Abu clearly loves his children and they him. After experiencing one instance of severe physical hardship, Abu comforts his children as they weep for him. His two oldest sons eventually are sent off to a military camp, and I challenge any viewer not to feel at least something as they cry themselves to sleep at night.

In the end, I think the hallmark of "Of Fathers and Sons" is the humanizing effect it has on jihadists. Am I completely sympathetic to their cause? Absolutely not. However, inside access like this does indeed show them to be individuals capable of love and emotion. I would argue they are extremely misguided in many key ways, but yet still human down at their base level.

So often, America/Islam relations are all about "us vs. them", and often for good reason (wars have been perpetuated by both sides of that coin). What Derki shows here, though, is that it truly is only political/theological ideology that separates "us from them". Strip down the layers to the barest human selves, and you'll find yourself caring for their plight (self-inflicted as it may be) perhaps more than you ever realized.

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