Of Fathers and Sons

Of Fathers and Sons (Arabic: عن الآباء والأبناءʿan al-ʾābāʾ wal-ʾabnāʾ) is a 2017 Arabic-language German-Syrian documentary film directed by Talal Derki about radical jihadism and terrorist training in Syria.[1]

Of Fathers and Sons
GermanKinder des Kalifats
Directed byTalal Derki
Produced by
  • Frauke Ahlers
  • Sebastian Alten
  • Florian Beck
  • Kahtan Hassoun
  • Kaj Holmberg
Music byKarim Sebastian Elias
CinematographyKahtan Hassoun
Edited byAnne Fabini
Release date
  • 17 November 2017 (2017-11-17) (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam)
Running time
99 minutes
LanguageSyrian Arabic


Under the guise of a photojournalist sympathetic towards Salafi jihadism, Talal Derki is allowed to enter a village controlled by the al-Nusra Front close to the front line of the Syrian Civil War, and stays with the Osama family. The family patriarch Abu Osama is an enthusiastic fanatic, openly praising the September 11 attacks and naming his children after the leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He works as a sniper and as a mine remover, and removes his children from school due to coeducation. The children, in particular the eldest son Osama, become increasingly prone to fighting and bullying.

During a mission, Abu Osama's left lower leg is blown off by a mine. Shortly afterwards, the children are sent to a terrorist training camp. The boys face harsh conditions, and quickly become homesick. After returning home, Abu Osama's treasured books are destroyed in an airstrike by the Russian Air Force, and he lives by selling components from disarmed mines to bombmakers. He remains committed to his belief that the war will lead to an apocalyptic Third World War between a revived Caliphate and the Christian world and bring on the victory of the Mahdi against the Antichrist.

At the camp, Osama advances along and is prepared for further military training, while his younger brother Ayman does not do well and wants to return to school. Abu Osama takes the decisive step of teaching Osama how to shoot a gun. Before Osama leaves for a more intensive camp, he shares a riddle with Ayman. Osama undergoes three years of training and indoctrination, while Ayman returns to school.

As Osama's brigade is driven to the front for the first time and as Talal leaves to return home to Berlin, he explains that Ayman and Osama continued down their separate paths into their teenage years, and reflects upon the deep devastation of Syria.  


  • Abu Osama - Himself
  • Ayman Osama - Himself
  • Osama Osama - Himself


Derki mentioned in an interview that he stayed there about 2 and a half years and the effective filming days were 330 days.[2]


Critical responseEdit

Of Fathers and Sons has an approval rating of 95% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 reviews, and an average rating of 8.23/10.[3] It also has a score of 70 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 7 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[4]



  1. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (15 November 2018). ""Of Fathers and Sons" Review: A Look at Terrorists in Training". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  2. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGVcFY66heg
  3. ^ https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/of_fathers_and_sons
  4. ^ https://www.metacritic.com/movie/of-fathers-and-sons
  5. ^ "Pobjednici 14. ZagrebDoxa: O očevima i sinovima i Druga strana svega" (in Croatian). 3 March 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  6. ^ "'Zašto ropstvo? Zarobljena žena' i 'Očevi i sinovi' pobjednici prvog AJB DOC-a" (in Bosnian). 25 September 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2019.

External linksEdit