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Nat Geo’s ISIS Drama ‘The State’ Aims to Humanize Terrorist Group

TCA 2017: ”Our jobs as dramatists is to hold a mirror up to society, however difficult that may be,“ Peter Kosminsky says

Nat Geo and Channel 4’s upcoming drama series “The State” will surely to raise some eyebrows when it premieres in the fall, telling the story of four British men and women who move to Syria to join the Islamic State.

Given the recent spate of violent ISIS-backed terrorist attacks throughout Europe, the miniseries will touch close to home for some of its viewers as it attempts to humanize the lives of the perpetrators. But writer and directer Peter Kosminsky says it’s his job to tell difficult stories.

“That war has been brought to the streets of our cities … so this is a very live topic,” Kosminsky said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday. “But I guess our jobs as dramatists is to hold a mirror up to society, however difficult that may be.”

“I don’t think we do a particular service to relatives of those who’ve suffered in the Islamic State atrocities to just say, ‘Well they’re all insane, they’re all lunatics,’ and somehow salve our conscious in that way,” he said. “The difficulty is that it isn’t that simple. Tough as it may be, our job is to try to look a little deeper and try to provide some kind of antidote to simplistic thought if we can.”

Based on 18 months of research and first-hand accounts, Kosminsky says every event in “The State” is taken from the real experience of a young person who was radicalized in Europe and traveled to Syria to join the terrorist group.

“We’re not going to make a show about radicalization, we’re going to make a show about what the daily lives are like of these young people who went out to Syria,” he said. “Where do you live? What do you do? What do you eat? How do you survive in that environment when you’ve grown up in London or Paris?”

Research shows that it’s hard to say what type of person is a likely target for radicalization, the director said.

“The truth is there is no common path. It seems to cross the demographic completely,” Kosminsky explained. “There’s a full range of people going. The only thing you can say is that their attachment to their religion, to Islam, is shallow.”

“It seems that the deeper your knowledge and experience of the Islamic faith is, the less likely you are to travel to Syria,” he said.

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