An audacious feat of documentarian access.
— The Hollywood Reporter

Of Fathers and Sons

a film by Talal Derki

After his Sundance award-winning documentary Return to Homs, Talal Derki returned to his homeland where he gained the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses primarily on the children, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up with a father whose only dream is to establish an Islamic caliphate. Osama (13) and his brother Ayman (12) both love and admire their father and obey his words, but while Osama seems content to follow the path of Jihad, Ayman wants to go back to school. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, Of Fathers and Sons is a work of unparalleled intimacy that captures the chilling moment when childhood dies and jihadism is born.

Clear, vivid, unshakable. The sheer level of personal danger-zone access secured by Derki is something to marvel and puzzle over. Sincerely eye-popping in its portrayal of inherited Islamist fervor.
— Variety
Offers an all-too-rare perspective: that of an insider in the jihadist movement in Syria, one who has experienced the workings of the most extreme groups firsthand.
— The Intercept
Imagine a westernized Syrian filmmaker who identifies as a liberal Muslim going to Syria and embedding with radical Islamists by pretending to be one of them. That’s what Talal Derki did in order to shoot Of Fathers and Sons. And what he documented is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
— Indiewire

Upcoming Screenings

Parkway Theatre – Baltimore, Maryland

February 1 – 7

The Landmark – Los Angeles, CA

February 6

Museum of the Moving Image – New York, NY

February 9 – 10

Roxy Hotel Cinema – New York, NY

February 15 – 24

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema – Toronto, ON

February 19 – 22

Gateway Film Center – Columbus, OH

February 22 – 28

Awards and Festivals

NOMINATED – Best Documentary Feature, 91st Academy Awards®

WINNER – Grand Jury Prize (World Documentary), Sundance Film Festival

NOMINATED – Best Documentary Feature, IDA Documentary Awards

NOMINATED – Best Writing, IDA Documentary Awards

NOMINATED – Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, Cinema Eye Honors

NOMINATED – Outstanding Achievement in Direction, Cinema Eye Honors

NOMINATED – Outstanding Achievement in Production, Cinema Eye Honors

HONOREE – “Unforgettables” Nonfiction Subjects of 2018, Cinema Eye Honors

NOMINATED – Best European Documentary, European Film Awards

WINNER – Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

WINNER – Special Jury Mention, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

WINNER – Audience Award (International), Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival

WINNER – DocEdge Award, Documentary Edge Festival

WINNER – Movies That Matter Award, ZagrebDox

WINNER – Special Jury Prize, Valletta Film Festival

WINNER – Main Feature Award, SWR Doku Festival

WINNER – Fritz-Gerlich-Preis, Munich Film Festival

WINNER – Best Feature Documentary, Madrid International Documentary Film Festival

WINNER – Silver Star, El Gouna International Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION – IDFA: International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam




OFFICIAL SELECTION – Sheffield Film Festival



OFFICIAL SELECTION – Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival


Al-Nusra won’t send him to battle until he’s grown up, God willing. But if he’s old enough, I will send him to battle.
— Osama's Father

Director's Notes

After my film Return to Homs, which was about the young rebel Basit Sarout and his comrades, I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to penetrate the psychology and the emotions of this war, understand what made people radicalize and what drives them to live under the strict rules of an Islamic state. In the media, war is often portrayed as a chess game and Islam is labeled as evil. If we see the images of war, we get the feeling that it is a unreal parallel world. In Of Fathers and Sons, I want to establish a direct relationship between the protagonists and the audience. I would like to take my audience with me on my journey and communicate with them through my camera.

The main characters of my film are Abu Osama (45), one of the founders of Al-Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al-Qaeda, and his two eldest sons Osama (13) and Ayman (12). I have been living with them over the period of 2.5 years and became a part of their family. Although I am an atheist, I prayed with them every day and led the life of a good Muslim to find out, what is happening in my country. Abu Osama is not only a loving father, but also a specialist for car bomb attacks and the disposal of mines. He deeply believes in an Islamic society under the laws of the Shari'ah, the Caliphate, and therefore he also places his children at its service.

I follow Osama and Ayman to a training camp for young fighters and start to understand how the children are affected, as they really do not have a chance to choose freely. How will I become who I am? Where is hope? What will the future look like? What choices do we have? The children are those who enable us to emotionally experience and understand the complex tragedy of Syria. Often, they are the ones who can look through all the madness, and in their own childlike way, they can save the hope.

Of Fathers and Sons is my personal journey through a devastated country and a troubled society, looking for answers to my desperate questions about the future of my country and the future of my family who had to flee into exile.

– Talal Derki

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Talal Derki was born in Damascus and is based in Berlin since 2014.

He studied film directing in Athens and worked as an assistant director for many feature film productions and was a director for different Arab TV programs between 2009 and 2011. Furthermore, he worked as a freelance cameraman for CNN and Thomson & Reuters. Talal Derkis short films and feature length documentaries received many awards at a variety of festivals. His feature documentary RETURN TO HOMS has won the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Grand   Jury Prize in 2014. The same year, he was also  a member of the international Jury at IDFA.



  • 2016 – Ode to Lesvos, short documentary

  • 2013 – Return to Homs, feature documentary

  • 2010 – Hero of the Sea, documentary

  • 2005 – A whole line of trees, short film

  • 2003 – Hello Damascus goodbye Damascus, short film

for a full crew list please visit IMDB.