By Brooke Knappenberger, E23 Reporter

In the documentary “Of Fathers and Sons”, director Talal Derki returns to his home country of Syria to provide an extremely rare and intimate insight into a radical Islamist family. He follows the family in their daily life, whether it be with Abu Osama, an Al Nusra fighter and father, on his trips to defuse mines or with Osama’s eight sons to school. The film gives an in-depth look into the various aspects of an Al Qaeda member’s life and the life of his sons.

I’ve never been to True/False Film Fest and I have hardly seen any documentaries, so this film made a huge impression on me. Overall, the film was incredibly powerful and insightful. It completely moved me and made me feel so many emotions all at once: fear, rage and pity amongst many others. I can’t say the film was particularly enjoyable because of the graphic and disturbing subject matter; however, many aspects of the film were notable.

First, the filmmaking itself is incredible. I was wondering throughout the entire film how Derki was able to get many of his shots. In one scene, one of Osama’s sons was crawling through an army tank and it seemed impossible to fit a camera and a small child in the tiny crawl space. Derki truly did everything he could to get a shot, sometimes walking mere steps away from Osama as he diffused a mine. Also, there were many great moments where I was literally on the edge of my seat in sheer anticipation. This film definitely made me realize all of the hard work that goes into filmmaking and now I appreciate it as an art form.

The film did an exceptional job humanizing the subjects. To Americans, the Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization, but Derki was able to present a more personal look at a member’s life. There were many touching father-son moments, as well as typical scenes of children. Osama’s children were often shown doing normal things like swimming, attending school and wrestling each other. While there were many of these common scenes between the children, there were more contrasting scenes of war. One moment, the children are going to school, and in the next, they are leaving for a military camp to learn how to become a soldier. These contrasting scenes provide a better image of these kids’ lives.

On a side note, I thought it was really interesting how little women were mentioned in the film. Of course, the title only mentions men, but I was still curious to see how women are presented in the men’s lives. In one scene, one of Osama’s wives is sobbing off camera after he returns home, and he threatens to burn down the house with her inside if she does not stop crying. Women are not actually shown at all, which gives viewers another glimpse into Osama’s culture in Syria.

To conclude, Talal Derki’s “Of Fathers and Sons” is absolutely a must-see. It is a film that presents astounding images of real people and makes you reflect on your own life. I left the theater in shock that people live like Osama and his children in war-torn countries. The film completely changed my view on filmmaking and documentaries. Before I saw this film, I wasn’t interested in documentaries, but now I would like to go to True/False every year and see as many films as I can. “Of Fathers and Sons,” filled with haunting real-life scenes, will stick with me and anyone else who sees it for a very long time.

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