This year’s documentary Oscar race, like pretty much everything else about the Oscars this year, showed a medium in transition between comfortable and more radical forms, and an industry split on where to side. The crowd-pleasers won out. Free Solo, a dazzling National Geographic spectacle, took the prize, with staid bio-doc RBG presumed to be close behind, while more experimental critical darlings Hale County This Morning, This Evening and the remarkable, forthcoming Minding the Gap were just happy to be nominated. It’s a start; perhaps in a few years the balance will shift.
But after surprising many pundits by cracking the lineup, the fifth nominee got lost in the shuffle, even though it is arguably the boldest film of the lot. Despite the Oscar nod, and a host of festival gongs including the top prize at Sundance, Syrian film-maker Talal Derki’s extraordinary, intrepid Of Fathers and Sons may have passed by even the most attentive UK filmgoers. It was briefly in cinemas last year via the heroic Bertha DocHouse, but didn’t get an official, nationally reviewed release, and it hasn’t been released on physical media. It is, however, now streaming through Curzon Home Cinema and the BFI Player, and got an iTunes release last week. It’s worth the hunt.
Freelance - Cameraman - Outlets - Reuters - CNN
A former freelance cameraman for such outlets as Reuters and CNN, Derki is a film-maker with a journalist’s nose: he doesn’t do undercover work by half measures. His reckless, unrepeatable feat in Of Fathers and Sons is to insert himself into a jihadist family in the al-Nusra front, persuading patriarch Abu Osama that he is himself a sympathetic jihadist photojournalist. Needless to say, the ensuing study of radicalisation in action is not the glorifying portrait Osama has in mind. Drawing limited attention to his presence, Derki observes as Osama puts his posse of...
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Drove my Ford to the fjord, but the fjord was dry. . .