Film Reviews

Review: ‘The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs


The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad
(France, 120 min.)
Dir. Stéphane Malterre
Programme: World Showcase (North American Premiere)

This two-hour epic has got it all: fascinating characters, narrative turns that knock your socks off, vivid cinematography, fluid editing rhythms, and a throbbing middle-eastern inflected score. The doc pulls you in right off the top and never lets go until its poignant finale.

The Ayachis are a Syrian Muslim family who settled in France. The “father” of the title is Bassam, married to a French woman who converted to Islam and gave birth to Abdel Rahmane, the “son.” Via stills and video, the movie flashes back to these men, showing us urbane Frenchmen steeped in western culture from literature to rap.

Inspired by the French student uprisings of 1968, Bassam committed himself to fighting injustice, simultaneously embracing his religion and homeland. Both he and Abdel Rahmane functioned well in the business and technology worlds, and both could slide back and forth between western ways and their origins. Basam, an irresistibly charming man became a charismatic Imam and practitioner of Sharia law.

Eventually, Abdel Rahmane, whose beloved maternal grandfather fought in the French resistance, heeds the call of Jihad and organizes a fundamentalist but “moderate free army” to crush both Bashar al-Assad’s monstrous regime and ISIS. From this point on, the doc tracks a voyage that is perilous and action-packed, taking the viewer deep inside the militant Islamist world and its complexities. Stéphane Malterre’s film shows the problematic reality of life and death in a Middle East that is far removed from the ignorant pronouncements of the Trumps and Cruzes and their idiotic solutions to tragic conflicts.

The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad screens:
-Tuesday, May 3 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 9:00 PM
-Thursday, May 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:15 AM
-Friday, May 6 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 9:00 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

View all articles by Maurie Alioff »