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FILM: Conflicting emotions in Jim: The James Foley Story

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Published: 3 September, 2016
by DAN CARRIER

JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY
Directed by Brian Oakes
Certificate 15

THE words spoken by journalist James Foley at a lecture he gave at his old university are chillingly prophetic.

He had been captured in Libya by pro-Gaddafi forces and held in Tripoli with other journalists. After two months he was finally released, and went to his college to discuss his experiences.

“I had a close call. It was pure luck I did not get killed,” James says at the filmed lecture. “I was inspired and horrified by the reaction of my friends and family. It was like going to your own funeral.”

But such an awful experience did not stop him heading back out to the Middle East – and as this careful documentary reveals, it charts what he saw and how he came to die at the hands of Isis.

Foley became a conflict journalist after leaving college and the Libyan uprising was his first trip to a war zone.

As the film shows, after this experience he felt unable to ignore the maelstrom of civil war in the post-Arab Spring period. 

Despite the dangers and despite the pleadings of his family not to do so, he headed to northern Syria.

It was here he bore witness to the terrible conflict that now heads into its sixth year. He saw innocents being blown to pieces. He tried to make people sit up and take notice.

Jim was captured and murdered by Islamic State forces, and this film tells his story, his motivations and offers the viewer plenty of questions to ponder over.

The film benefits from the fact the family and friends offer their thoughts – particularly heartbreaking are the contributions from his father and mother, Diane and John. 

His brother, also John, offers an interesting understanding of what conflict does to the individual. 

“When he told me he’s going to Syria, I wanted to punch him in the face – in a loving, brotherly kind of way,” says John Junior. “But he was so restless. He could not sit still after what he had seen. He was drawn.”

Essentially the story is not just about the death of this one courageous and clearly greatly loved and deeply missed young man. It asks you to consider the nature of the human race, how as a species we are unable to understand how to solve disagreements and the battle for resources without resorting to violence.

The effect of war on people is writ large when one of Jim’s colleagues, who was in Libya with him, speaks of trying to return to her home. “There is a deep absurdity trying to understand the peace we have... how do we make our money?” she asks. “What is the basis of our peace? I can’t look at Tupperware in a supermarket, when someone else, somewhere else, is looking at the ruins of their home.” 

Foley’s story is tragic, moving, inspiring.

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