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How ‘Of Fathers and Sons’ Director Gained Trust of a Jihadist Family (Video)

Sundance 2018: Talal Derki immersed himself inside an Al-Nursa family in Syria by convincing them he was making a film sympathetic to jihadists

To make his new harrowing documentary “Of Fathers and Sons,” filmmaker Talal Derki had to win the trust of a family led and strongly influenced by their jihadist father, creating a portrait of a family bound together by both love and violent Islamist fervor.

“I spent many years…in the war zone, and I met a lot of people,” Derki told TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven. “I get experience with how to pretend and how to present yourself, what to say…I tell them I’m a war cameraman and that I want to learn about religion.”

The subject of the film is Abu Osama, a father of eight and the leader of Al-Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al-Qaeda. His oldest sons, Osama and Ayman, are 13 and 12, respectively, and are shown in the film being sent to a training camp for young fighters that grooms them to become the next wave of fighters for the extremist cause. Though he is atheist, Derki followed all the strict Muslim traditions in Osama’s household to gain their trust, showing a portrait of a father who loves his children dearly, yet believes in his cause so much he is willing to send them to die for it.

“In the future, if some other Muslim country has a revolution as what happened in Syria, or a civil war,” Derki said, “if the education is not correct about many things…they will be very easily stolen by the hands of jihadists.”

Watch Derki’s remarks in the clip above.