Directed by Zaynê Akyol • Documentary • 2023 • 127 minutes
The Islamic State group consumed the attention of the West for years. They were despised, feared, and by some, embraced. But who were they? Filmed in prisons and detention camps, this engrossing documentary turns the camera on men and women who committed their lives to the Islamic State, tracing its rise and fall through the personal experiences of those who lived through it.
In telling their personal stories, a narrative of the Islamic State emerges. We hear about the radical teachings that drew men and women to fight in Syria, the ins and outs of IS administration (the oil trade, meting out punishments, housing), and beliefs in everything from the incompatibility of Islam and democracy to detailed descriptions of heaven. Some of the interviewees remain fully committed to the idea of a caliphate, while others clearly hope to save their skin.
In avoiding easy answers, ROJEK creates a multi-faceted view of the Islamic State — its brutality, its theological underpinnings, and the sense of both belonging and betrayal it fostered. Interspersed with the interviews is footage of contemporary Syrian Kurdistan. It is a harsh environment in which an even harsher ideological quasi-state took hold.