Path of Blood provides an interesting view of Al Qaeda. It uses behind-the-scenes footage taken by its own members, which is rarely shown in the mainstream media.
The documentary focuses on Al Qaeda’s Saudi Arabian cells in the early 2000s and briefly explores some of the contradictions of the Saudi state in regards to Al Qaeda.
The documentary doesn’t shy away from portraying the complexities of a group that has been used by Western politicians as a reason to drum up Islamophobia.
The film makers combine footage from Al Qaeda, Saudi authorities, and media coverage to give the audience a deeper understanding of a group that has carried out appalling acts.
One immediate observation is the comparison between home footage and the propaganda footage.
The former shows us the fighters behaving in very similar ways to other young men.
Looking at the footage, you can compare the Al Qaeda fighters to the military of established states, with a sense of brotherhood.
The footage also shows us the fear that these fighters had before carrying out their missions, especially those described as ‘martyrs’, who became suicide bombers.
This humanises them, showing their emotions—from joy to fear.
Family footage of the fighters is briefly shown, with the children imitating their parents by mock-fighting when at play.
The message is that everyone can be a casualty in war—from victims of attacks to the people left behind.
The documentary could go further to investigate the connections members of the Saudi ruling classes have with Al Qaeda.
What is shown is the leaders of Saudi Arabia forcing various religious leaders to renounce their previous callings for jihad towards non-Muslims.
However, the documentary does not look into how Al Qaeda has been, and continues to be, funded by members of the Saudi ruling class.
This important detail is glossed over.
It is likely Al Qaeda could have grown to any prominence had it not been for this implicit, and sometimes explicit, support.
This would bring up further questions of the links between the Saudi regime, the US and Britain.
The film makers decided to leave that hornets nest alone, to the detriment of the documentary.
It makes references to the fighters being manipulated, but fails to go far enough in explaining why and how.
This is a documentary that gives us a different look at Al Qaeda.
It leaves the viewer thinking of the human side behind who the people often labelled as “terrorists” and “monsters” by the media.
Even though it could go further—it goes far beyond most other documentaries covering this subject.
Directed by Jonathan Hacker
On limited release