In Rojek, Zaynê Akyol explores the motivations of Islamic State terrorists

On Monday 24 October, the History Time section premiered the documentary Rojek, a Canadian film directed by Zaynê Akyol. It was the screenwriter, producer and director of the feature film herself who officiated the presentation to the public at the Valladolid International Film Week, a festival where in 2016 she won first prize in the same section with Gulistan, Land of Roses.

Rojek collects the statements of members of the Islamic State scattered around the world in prison camps, as well as those of their wives. They all share a dream: to found a caliphate. Against the fundamentalist beliefs of the jihadists, the film attempts to trace the beginning, rise and fall of the Islamic State (ISIS) through these personal stories. The conversations are the common thread of the documentary, as they are interwoven with various sequences depicting post-war Syrian Kurdistan today.

The documentary features Kemal, Abdul Mohsen, Fared, Nagi, Fatiha, Sayfal-Din, Hader, Naj and many others. “I am very happy to be here tonight, especially after presenting my first film in Valladolid. For me it feels like coming home,” said Akyol moments before the screening began.

“My intention was to find out how [Islamic fundamentalists] ended up there. To understand their position and their mentality. My role was that of a listener, because I didn’t want to judge. After all, they are already in jail and I am not a judge,” the filmmaker said.

Zaynê Akyol ended the presentation by detailing a fundamental aspect of the documentary feature film: “Fire is a metaphor to explain that ideology is not dead, it is still alive. In the camps where women and children are still believing in it. In the end, a time bomb is being created that will explode at any moment.

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