Posted by Matt Rosenberg on May 2, 2010 at 12:10 am
Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side), perhaps the greatest documentarian of our time, directs this near perfect documentary, My Trip To Al-Qaeda, an exploration behind terrorism. Gibney collaborates here with Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer Prize winner, to bring Wright’s play to the big screen. Even better, My Trip To Al-Qaeda was purchased by HBO so we can expect to see this amazing piece of work to soon hit a TV near you. However, I was lucky enough to be at the world premiere of the film, being able to bring you some feedback of what to expect.
My Trip To Al-Qaeda took to the New York show circuit in 2007, and it proved to be quite a hit. Wright is a bit of a terrorism expert, which is not to be construed in the wrong way, as he has studied Al-Qaeda for many years. Here’s a fun fact, he even wrote the controversial 1998 film “The Siege,” starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, about terrorism striking New York City and the US response. Oddly enough, this connected Wright to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. After 9/11, The Siege became an instant rental sensation, making Wright a profiteer of arguably the most horrific day in our nations day history. Gibney takes us on a unique ride and storytelling adventure about Wright’s one-man-show.
What does a hypnotized chicken have to do with Al-Qaeda? These unique metaphors are used throughout the film, and play, by Wright to give insight into radicalism. He interviews many former radicalists, some of which he didn’t even know had been reformed. He often addresses the audience admitting that he wasn’t even sure who he was really talking to, but expressing only slight concern for his own safety, something I was really shocked by. Most the film is spent on educating its viewers on the origins of terrorism, the impacts of certain historical events (i.e. Eqypt’s brief peace with Israel, Russia v Afghanistan, Iraq, and more), and the US response.
Wright has the stage presence of a professor as he analyzes his video research in front of the live audience. He goes back and forth analyzing the footage then addressing the crowd. He poses insightful and thought provoking questions along the way. This documentary takes us a behind the scenes ride of examing terrorism in a way I, and I’m guessing most of you, have not experienced.
What startled me most was that Wright really takes a knock on the US, but not in an unpatriotic way so please don’t get me wrong. This is the same knock he so clearly elaborated on in his “The Seige.” What if Bin Laden all along wanted us to freak out in fear and begin attacking our own citizens? What if he wanted us to round up all Muslims who fit a certain terrorist profile, torture them without mercy, and send them to prison without due process? Ummm, Guantanomo anyone? If you’ve seen “The Siege,” then you know what Wright is talking about.
More startling than even that Wright asks, what has America become? We are supposed to be a beacon of good, right? Check out “My Trip To Al-Qaeda,” and make up your own decision. You are in for one heck of treat if you choose to do so.
This Gibney and Wright collaboration is a MUST SEE.
- 05/02/2010: Red Carpet of Freakonomics :: The Movie Banter