"demonstrates the complexity of the terrorist; how charm and humour can exist alongside cruelty in the same human being at the same time"
Archival footage is used to expose the terrorists, whilst presenting an extraordinary window into their psyches and methodologies. These can range from close conversations they have before their lives are brought to an abrupt end, to clips where they stumble over their lines; from the torment of the latest American prisoner, as they are pressed for information, to a front room in a house where the father’s educating his child on how to murder.
You may ask ‘how did Path of Blood come about?’ A considerable amount of time was spent seeking permission to use the footage. It helped that Prince Muhammad bin Nayef was head of security at the time. Around 500 hours of footage was found, a mixture of material from Al-Qaeda and filming caught by the actual security services themselves. All of which held too important a story for it not to be told.
Although the film covers Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia from 2003 to 2009, it is still poignant today when terrorism shows no signs of leaving us. There are ideologies, and young people, who are more susceptible can be easily influenced. Therefore, when you believe you have obliterated the problem in one area, it will arise in another.
It provides a distinct pictorial study of terrorists and the Muslims who are standing up against them, in what is a much-awaited discussion of sharp, opposing factions. In the first few minutes you could be put off as the footage is of a poor quality, amateur like in fact, but then as you continue to watch you begin to see just how staggering the images are, crude and personal. Here we step into the behind-the-scenes world of Al-Qaeda.
The narrative used is most effective, explaining what the purpose of a foot soldier in Al-Qaeda is, where scenes range from humorous to downright cruel. Both elements are highlighted in order to show you that they can, in fact, live inside the same human being, simultaneously.
The complexity of the terrorist is captured well in this film, with the ideology of them consisting of an ordinary person and a corrupted one at the same time. The first demand director Jonathan Hacker had was to identify what kind of tone he wanted, i.e. bloodcurdling, with a sense of unease, whilst remaining close to his subjects. After which he could lay down a clear narrative, a cat-and-mouse chase, as it were, where the security forces are in competition with the terrorists, where the terrorists’ objective is to destroy as much as possible, and the security services preventing the deaths of innocents.
It goes without saying that there are a number of humorous moments in the film, and then some of almost unimaginable cruelty. The message Hacker wanted to get across was that humour and killing can coexist inside the same individual. The complexity of this is caught well, as we are encouraged to recognise the terrorist as an ordinary person, like you or me but who’s been corrupted a long the way. As an audience member it will disturb you to the core by just how easily these young men can descend into evil.