Of Fathers and Sons (2018): Oscar Nominated Documentary

This is one of the most difficult reactions to a film I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been shocked. I’ve been grossed out. I’ve been put the sleep. Documentarian Talal Derki gained entrance into a jihadist family’s inner works for as long as he could manage. The footage, raw and taxing, forms a family drama influenced by generations of dangerous fundamentalist thinking.

All things are dangerous when done with unerring belief that their way of life is worth intrusion into another’s life. Raising children generation after generation in hate is a nightmare situation. I thought Jesus Camp–the fundamentalist Christian bible camp Oscar nominated documentary from 2006–was a nightmare situation, children raised to believe they were speaking in tongues and that George W. Bush was to be praised unsettlingly god-like. Of Fathers and Sons introduces a loving father caring for his many children to stand by strict observance of Islam which happens to contain a complete lack of concern for anyone else. The chipper and randomly violent fathers peeling back an occasionally parental admiration, the fate of their more aggressive children is shown as some boys go to learn math and others go to “sharia school.”

Their desensitizing training and lessons in what an ethically sound (theo)logical mind would call sociopathy struck deep. A story filled with years of exploring my own faith-based believe. I’m on the null-side of a god conversation, but I’m fine with anyone else’s metaphysical or paranormal belief as long as it does not influence the safety or pursuit of happiness in anyone else’s life. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism. No religion goes without its atrocities over time. These life directed faiths have been pushing murder and charity for a long time: people get swayed. I’ve seen the Joel Osteens and Westboro Baptist Church pervert the Christian religion, and I’ve seen the fear and discrimination toward perfectly happy and peaceful Muslim Americans due to the terrors brought on from the worst around them. But where most problems seem “society has gotta grow out of this,” this brand of learned violence is deep and dangerous.

I’m not looking to review or make it seem like I know anything about these people’s lives, I can only look at this with a mind that would prefer everyone leaving everyone else the fuck alone. Sometimes, these little Oscar nominated reminders of the stark difference experienced in his universe require a brain dump. Are you braced enough to watch something miserable but fascinating? Of Fathers and Sons is available to watch on Kanopy, a newer streaming service that you can connect to your library card (at least in Seattle). Please let me know what you think.

A little awards jabber to follow: I love this surprise nomination–and set of nominations–for the best documentary Oscar. Of Fathers and Sons was an impressive feat of bravery from the director and crew finding a captivating subject. Minding the Gap develops a lifetime friendship with a critical eye. Hale County was an innovative use of captured video to form a vision of the rural South for African Americans. It was either RBG or Won’t You Be My Neighbor for celebrating influential Americans, and Free Solo captured that captivating documentary area with the thrilling (reportedly) climbing documentary taking the spot. Oscar night is February 24, and I’m not sure who is gonna take this prize. I’m hoping for Minding the Gap, but there isn’t a bad egg in the bunch. Maybe I can catch Free Solo over these busy next few weeks; please let me know if it’s already streaming.