Film review: ‘Of Fathers and Sons’ captures the moment childhood is lost

The film has been nominated for an award at the Arab Cinema Center’s Annual Critics Awards. (Supplied)
Updated 15 May 2019

Film review: ‘Of Fathers and Sons’ captures the moment childhood is lost

  • The director captured the spread of extremism at the grassroots level in Syria
  • The documentary already scored an award at El-Gouna Film Festival

Nurture plays a hugely decisive role in shaping the personality of a child and this is made shockingly apparent in the hard-hitting documentary “Of Fathers and Sons” by Syrian-born filmmaker Talal Derki.

The film has been nominated in the Best Documentary category at the Arab Cinema Center’s Annual Critics Awards, to be held on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival next week.

The director, who now lives in Berlin, traveled back to the war-torn northern part of Syria armed andwith a camera to capture how extremism is spreading at the grassroots level.

The documentary, which caused a splash at the Sundance Film Festival and scored a Silver Star award at the El-Gouna Film Festival, minces no words when it shows how a father passes on his radical beliefs to his young sons.

The director pretended to be an extremist-sympathetic war photographer and spent two years with a family capturing moments of sheer violence and terror. The audience is forced to watch as the father teaches his young sons how to shoot rifles, locate land mines and ultimately normalizes violence to such an extent that his son slaughters a bird and relates it to the act of beheading a man. Through the metamorphosis of young children into extremists, Derki shows how pervasive violence can be.

While Derki’s work is mostly forthright, there are moments when he is subtle. For instance, we never see the boy decapitating the bird. In the end, the documentary reveals in all its earnestness how the culture of violence, hatred and bigotry spreads. These evils seep into their subconscious mind through the father and the boys do not even realize how cleverly they are being indoctrinated into a murderous, radicalized way of thinking.

The acute danger the director placed himself in to be able to capture such footage is reason enough to applaud this documentary, and its insights into the methods by which extremism is passed from father to son is a valuable tool for beginning to understand the scourge of radicalism the world over.


French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri wins big at French Oscars

The team behind ‘Papicha’ posed for photographs at the Cesars. (AFP)
Updated 29 February 2020

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri wins big at French Oscars

DUBAI: “Papicha,” a touching story of Algerian women fighting for their freedom by Mounia Meddour won both best first film and best female newcomer for actress Lyna Khoudri at the French Oscars on Friday.

The 27-year-old French-Algerian star won big at the Cesars for her portrayal of 18-year-old university student Nedjma, who finds herself struggling to continue her passion for fun and fashion as conservative forces sweep Algeria.

Lyna Khoudri won the best female newcomer award at the ceremony. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, director Roman Polanski won best director for “An Officer and a Spy” at the fractious ceremony that ended in walkouts and recrimination in Paris, AFP reported.

The entire French academy had been forced to resign earlier this month amid fury that the veteran — wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 — had topped the list of nominations.

Protesters chanting “Lock up Polanski!” tried to storm the theater where the ceremony was being held before being pushed back by police firing tear gas.

And France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester had warned that giving the maker of “Rosemary’s Baby” a Cesar would be “symbolically bad given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence.”

But Polanski won two awards, best adapted screenplay and best director — with the latter prompting Adele Haenel, who was nominated for best actress for “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” to storm out, crying “shame!“

The French press had dubbed the event “The Cesars of Anguish,” with Le Parisien daily mocking up a movie poster of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

And the ceremony lived up to its billing.

It was the absent figure of Polanski which caused most unease, with a presenter only daring to mumble his name when he opened the envelope for his first win.

The publicity campaign for Polanski’s movie was halted last year after another woman, photographer Valentine Monnier, claimed that she had also been raped by the director in 1975.

But that did not stop it becoming a box office hit in France.

Polanski had told AFP that he had decided to stay away from the ceremony to protect his family and his team from abuse.

“The activists brandish the figure of 12 women who I am supposed to have molested half a century ago,” he said.

“These fantasies of sick minds are treated as established fact,” he complained.