2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: OF FATHERS AND SONS

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kahtan Hasson and Talal Derki

Talal Derki embeds with a radical jihadist and his family in Syria.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki was most recently at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 with THE RETURN TO HOMS, which won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Once again, Derki returns to his homeland, upping the ante of danger to new heights by posing as a pro-jihadist photojournalist making a documentary on the rise of the caliphate. The result is an unfettered vérité portrait of al-Nusra general Abu Osama – a radical Islamist leader and loving father – and the gaggle of young boys who idolize him. Chief among these boys is the leader’s son Osama, named after Dad’s personal hero, Osama bin Laden.

In this remote village in northern Syria, a landscape of bombed-out homes, abandoned tanks, and minefields becomes a playground for young boys taught to stone any girls who dare to show their faces in public. Schools have been decimated. Education consists of reciting the Koran and attending military training camp. Bedtime stories regale the glory of martyrdom. With unparalleled intimacy, OF FATHERS AND SONS captures that chilling moment when childhood dies and jihadism is born.

Some Background:

  • Talal Derki
    Past Sundance docs:


    Derki received support for this, his sophomore feature, from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. The film debuted in competition at IDFA this past November.


  • Ansgar Frerich

    Frerich is a sound engineer and previously worked on the mix for THE RETURN TO HOMS. He most recently produced the Visions du Réel winning TASTE OF CEMENT. This is his first Sundance producing credit.

  • BASISberlin’s Eva Kemme and Tobias N Siebert

    This is the first Sundance credit for both. They also produced TASTE OF CEMENT.

  • Hans Robert Eisenhauer
    Past Sundance docs:

    SINS OF MY FATHER (2010, executive producer)
    DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A NATION’S JOURNEY (2008, commissioning editor)
    WHY WE FIGHT (2005, executive producer)

    The former ZDF/ARTE commissioning editor produces under his Ventana Film shingle.

Executive Producers:

  • Impact Partners’ Dan Cogan, Geralyn White Dreyfous, and Jenny Raskin
    Combined past recent Sundance docs:

    BENDING THE ARC (2017)
    DINA (2017)
    ICARUS (2017)
    STEP (2017)
    TROPHY (2017)
    UNREST (2017)
    AUDRIE & DAISY (2016)
    NUTS! (2016)

    Impact Films’ Co-Founder/Executive Director Cogan is also an executive producer of several fellow 2018 Sundance titles: fellow World Cinema Documentary Competition title OUR NEW PRESIDENT, US Documentary Competition title BISBEE ’17, Documentary Premieres title WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, US Dramatic Competition title THE TALE, and Premieres title THE LONG DUMB ROAD, as well as co-executive producer of US Dramatic Competition title NANCY.

    Co-Founder of both Impact Partners and Gamechanger Films, Dreyfous also executive produced 2018 Next documentary 306 HOLLYWOOD and Documentary Premieres title GENERATION WEALTH, as well as WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, BISBEE ’17, THE TALE, and THE LONG DUMB ROAD, and co-executive produced NANCY.

    Impact VP Raskin also executive produced BISBEE ’17 and co-executive produced WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR.

Commissioning Editors:

  • Gudrun Hanke-El Ghomri, Rolf Bergmann, and Claudia Bucher

    This is the first Sundance project for Hanke-El Ghomri, Bergmann, and Bucher, commissioning editors for ARD/SWR, RBB, and ARTE GEIE, respectively.


  • Anne Fabini
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE WORKERS CUP (2017, editorial consultant)

    Fabini also edited Sundance narrative feature alumni MORRIS FROM AMERICA (2016) and HOUSTON (2013).

Why You Should Watch:
Remarkably gaining unfettered access to both the private and public parts of his subjects lives, Derki offers audience a disturbing, frank look at the all-consuming, and, ultimately, dead-end consequences of radicalization for not only Abu Osama but the next generation.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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