Of Fathers and Sons

Date: Monday, March 11, 2019

Time: 7pm

Location: Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA

Director: Talal Derki

Film Details: 2017, 99 minutes, DCP, in Arabic with English subtitles

Film Website | Facebook Event | Tickets

Best Feature Documentary Nominee at the Academy Awards. Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Winner of the Audience Award at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.

Filmmaker Talal Derki will attend via Skype for a post-screening discussion with local filmmaker and journalist Beth Murphy.

About the Film:

After his Sundance award-winning documentary Return to Homs, Talal Derki returned to his homeland where he gained the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses mainly on the children, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up with a father whose only dream is to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Osama (13) and his brother Ayman (12) are in the center of the story. They both love and admire their father and obey his words, but while Osama seems to follow the path of Jihad, Ayman wants to go back to school. The film captures the moment when the children have to let go of their youth and are finally turned into Jihadi fighters. No matter how close the war comes—one thing they have already learned: they must not cry.

A clear, vivid and unshakeable view.

— Variety

About the Director:

Talal Derki was born in Damascus and has been based in Berlin since 2014.

He studied film directing in Athens and worked as an assistant director for many feature film productions and was a director for different Arab TV programs between 2009 and 2011. He also worked as a freelance cameraman for CNN and Thomson & Reuters. Talal Derki’s short films and feature length documentaries received many awards at a variety of festivals. His feature documentary RETURN TO HOMS won the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in 2014.

Director’s Statement:

After my film RETURN TO HOMS, which was about the young rebel Basit
Sarout and his comrades, I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to penetrate
the psychology and the emotions of this war, understand what made people
radicalize and what drives them to live under the strict rules of an
Islamic state. In the media, war is often portrayed as a chess game and
Islam is labeled as evil. If we see the images of war, we get the
feeling that it is a unreal parallel world. In OF FATHERS AND SONS, I
want to establish a direct relationship between the protagonists and the
audience. I would like to take my audience with me on my journey and
communicate with them through my camera.

The main characters of
my film are Abu Osama (45), one of the founders of Al-Nusra, the Syrian
arm of Al-Qaeda, and his two eldest sons Osama (13) and Ayman (12). I
have been living with them over the period of 2.5 years and became a
part of their family. Although I am an atheist, I prayed with them every
day and led the life of a good Muslim to find out, what is happening in
my country. Abu Osama is not only a loving father, but also a
specialist for car bomb attacks and the disposal of mines. He deeply
believes in an Islamic society under the laws of the Shari’ah, the
Caliphate, and therefore he also places his children at its service.

I follow Osama and Ayman to a training camp for young fighters and start to understand how the children are affected, as they really do not have a chance to choose freely. How will I become who I am? Where is hope? What will the future look like? What choices do we have? The children are those who enable us to emotionally experience and understand the complex tragedy of Syria. Often, they are the ones who can look through all the madness, and in their own childlike way, they can save the hope.

OF FATHERS AND SONS is my personal journey through a devastated country and a troubled society, looking for answers to my desperate questions about the future of my country and the future of my family who had to flee into exile.

Screens with:

I WAS HERE (2017, 11 minutes) by Zaina Erhaim

I WAS HERE captures the filmmaker’s emotional return to her hometown of Idlib, Syria in 2015, which had fallen out of the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and under the authority of the Al Fateh Army, a coalition of jihadist fighters.