Of Fathers and Sons
Runtime : 1h 39min
Country : Germany, Syria, Lebanon
Director : Talal Derki
Showtime : SAT, 29 February 2020 at 1:00-4:00 PM
Venue : Multimedia Room, 2nd Floor, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (Public Organization)
Talal Derki returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses on Osama and his younger brother Ayman, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up in 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.
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.
– Talal Derki