Category Archives: Film

“THE STUDENT AND MR. HENRI”— Henri and Constance

“The Student and Mr. Henri” (“L’Etudiante et Monsieur Henri”)

Henri and Constance

Amos Lassen

Ivan Calbérac brings us his film a adaptation of his hit play “The Student and Mr. Henri”. Henri (Claude Brasseur who at 79 is in excellent form) is a grouchy old man forced into sharing his apartment with Constance (Neomie Schmidt), a penniless student. We might think at first there is nothing really original here but surprises await us as does great chemistry between the two main characters. The film is equally funny and moving.  We get two hours of pure, old-fashioned entertainment.

Because of his fragile state of health, Monsieur Henri (Brasseur) can no longer live alone in his Parisian apartment and reluctantly agrees to rent out a room to a student.  He makes no effort to welcome the young woman into his home and help her adjust to life in the big city— he rather has something else in mind. He decides to use Constance to carry out his malevolent plan to destroy his son’s marriage to Valérie.

Basically, this is a classic tale of the older generation passing on the wisdom of their years to today’s youth.   There is a slight difference here, however. Monsieur Henri and Constance are very alike.  Henri feels he’s missed out on the opportunity to lead the life he wanted, while Constance’s self-doubt (having been overly criticized by her father) leads her to the same conclusion. They both decide to really live now. Henri isn’t moved by Constance’s lack of money or academic failure and he is much too bitter to see the error of his ways and too proud and selfish to correct them. Constance lies with consummate ease and accepts Henri’s unpleasant suggestion to ruin his son’s marriage without too many qualms.

Because she has no cash, Constance accepts Henri’s offer of a free room if she can drive a wedge between his son Paul (Guillaume de Tonquedec) and his airhead daughter-in-law Valerie (Frederique Bel). Constance deploys her seductive skills and soon enough the forty-something Paul is falling for her. Not only that, he begins dressing in cool leather jackets, clubbing and sending text messages in slang. Even more interesting is that bitter old Henri who is usually misanthropic and graceless, sees his defenses crumble before Constance and her sweet nature. Henri is a former accountant, filled with regrets about what might have been. He tells Constance not to make the mistakes he did and to enjoy life and pursue her dreams.

Claude Brasseur is excellent as Henri and he shows both comedy and pathos in the same scene in this intergenerational comedy that deals with the themes of the difficulty of housing, especially for young people, family conflicts and relationships, the fear of making a mess of one’s life at any age, middle age crisis, the temptation of adultery and the courage to follow dreams.

Noémie Schmidt as Constance is very convincing as a young provincial student who is cursed by her panic fear of examinations. This does not prevent her from being successively full of life, playful, sensual, generous and courageous. Her main flaw in the story is her lack of confidence, to the extent that when she fails her retake exam at the university, she lies to her parents because she feels ashamed of herself. Her budding friendship with Mr. Henri is touching. Especially when Henri pushes her to develop her musical skills.

Guillaume de Tonquédec as Paul, a man who would like to get along with his father and he is disappointed that Henri despises him and never accepted his marriage with Valérie also turns in an excellent performance. When he meets Constance, he starts to lose his inhibitions and reawaken his youth.

Frédérique Bel is Valérie, the perfect bigoted and goofy wife of Paul. Her silly thoughts, her false air of maternal complacency and her cheesy attitude are fun to watch. This is a movie filled with charm, emotions and incredible situations.

“PAINLESS”— A Modern Day Fable


A Modern Day Fable

Amos Lassen

This is really not a review but rather a look at a new film that will premiere in early March where it will be screened at the Cinequest Film and VR Festival (CQFF).

”Painless” is a science-based drama and was written and directed by New York native Jordan Horowitz, whose 2015 documentary Angel of Nanjing took home thirteen best film and best director awards from festivals around the world. “Painless” is produced by the award winning, Rhode Island duo of Anthony Ambrosino and Nicholas Delmenico, whose last film “Almost Human” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival where it was purchased by IFC.

“Painless is a modern-day fable about loneliness and alienation, and the sacrifices one makes for what they believe in,” said Horowitz. He added, “feelings I think we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives.” It was filmed in both New York City and Rhode Island. Montreal native Joey Klein stars .

“MARINONI: THE FIRE IN THE FRAME”— From Champion Cyclist to Master Bike Craftsman

“Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame”

From Champion Cyclist to Master Bike Craftsman

Amos Lassen

Giuseppe Marinoni of Montreal is a former champion cyclist who is now, at age 75, is a master bike craftsman. He has been an inspiration to many; a man whose attitude constantly changing. We see him at one moment speaking to documentarian Tony Girardin (who directed this film) about the process behind his constructions, and then at the next minute we see him yelling at the filmmaker for asking silly questions. He has a dry sense of humor and much of what he says is sarcastic thus making it difficult to really know his tone. A lot of what Marinoni conveys is so thickly rooted in sarcasm, that it’s easy to misinterpret his tone.  It takes a while to warm up to him and the film but it does indeed happen. One of the reasons that Girardin wanted to make this film was because of enigmatic personality.

As filming continued, a friendship developed between the two men and I really think that the film is much more intimate than anyone suspected it might be. While Marinoni’s story is interesting on its own, watching the relationship develop on camera is really fascinating.  The friendship steadies the film all the way to the final scenes in which Marinoni pushes himself to earn a golden title. The interviews with friends and family add a great deal to the film.

I purposely neglected to say earlier that at 75 years old, bicycle craftsmen Giuseppe Marinoni is determined to break the one-hour cycling record for his age group.  He is an Italian immigrant who moved to Montreal in 1965 to professionally race. Then he was a tailor but he crafts custom bike frames that are used and respected by cyclists around the world.

Tony Girardin follows Marinoni for two months leading up to the race, getting him to reluctantly open up about his life to the camera, as he struggles through his training to cut minutes off his time. The film is a look at not allowing age to cause on to stop moving forward. 

Giuseppe Marinoni is both a cranky but revered man Montreal manufacturer of bicycle frames who decided to set a world distance record for his age group. We see him training for his 2012 date with destiny and this involve a trip back to Italy and an hour of furious cycling. The race is held on an indoor track, and he rides for 60 minutes straight.

The bike he has chosen to ride in on a frame that he designed in the late 70s for Canadian cycling legend Jocelyn Lovell. We see Marinoni is happier

caring for chickens and looking for mushrooms than he is talking about himself, and there are moments that he becomes annoyed with Girardin’s camera giving us a few laughs.

“CASABLANCAS: THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN”— The Man Who Invented the Supermodel

“Casablancas: The Man Who Loved Women” (“Casablancas, l’homme qui aimait les femmes”)

The Man Who Invented the Supermodel

Amos Lassen

In 2011, John Casablancas, the founder of Elite Modeling Agency and the man who invented the supermodel sat down with a friend to record his life story. He would pass away two years later after battling cancer. These recordings became the basis of this documentary. We also see archival footage and pictures along with the story of the man that changed the modeling industry and became a world power.

John Casablancas was convinced by someone in the industry that he should be a modeling agent. But that wasn’t enough for him, as he decided to take on the giants of the industry like Ford Modeling Agency, and start his own company. It was unheard of at the time that a heterosexual male would be a leader in the fashion industry. Casablanca shot to stardom by “stealing” talent from the bigger agencies and establishing his own. He represented people like Christie Brinkley, Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, and just about every big name at the time. It was his idea to turn the models into celebrities thus making them household names so as to increase their value. It revolutionized the industry and set off a nasty war between the agencies.

We see Elite Models founder John Casablancas reflect on his loose and lucrative career. He certainly seems to have had all the luck— not only was he born rich, handsome and multinational, he was educated at the best Swiss schools and then chaperoned into high society. He went on to create the global powerhouse Elite Model Management, which caused the careers of many to take off and remain grounded.

The documentary features a lengthy one-on-one interview backed by tons of personal archives, TV clips and fashion-spread photos and it is almost like watching a dream sequence. This film is a glimpse at how one man managed to transform the sleepy world of modeling, in the mid-1960s into a star-driven enterprise of the ‘80s and ‘90s that made beautiful women into rich and famous celebrities. He was a successful lady-killer and a very decent person.

Casablanca was born in New York to Catalan parents and then raised in France and Switzerland. At times he seems to be a parody of the International Playboy. He was tall, suave, handsome and athletic and he appealed to beautiful women. What is most

impressive about Casbalancas’ career is how he more or less single-handedly reshaped the modeling business into the giant that it is today, taking his Paris-based Elite (which he founded in 1972) from a boutique agency of some thirty models and expanding it into the U.S. and dozens of other countries, with annual billings reaching close to $100 million during at its prime.

All of this was done on the backs of young women — many of them underage and handpicked in the company’s Elite Model Look beauty contests and is never questioned in this film. Director Hubert Woroniecki has a tendency to be more hagiographical than biographical in his approach to Casablanca. Still, he provides some intriguing details about the gradual shift in modeling from nameless faces in magazine ads to superstars like Eva Herzegovina and Heidi Klum (both of whom were once represented by Elite), particularly the “model wars” of the 1980s between newcomer Casablancas and New York stalwart Eileen Ford, whose conservative approach was a far cry from the, headlines-heavy atmosphere of Elite.

Casablancas does not brag about any of this, and his modest, matter-of-fact way of recalling his rise to power is refreshing. The documentary is full of home movies, private and professional photos, appearances on Oprah and Letterman, as well as newsreel footage of the Swiss Alps in the 1950s to the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan some three or four decades later.


“Deadly Virtues: Love.Honor.Obey.”

A Break In

Amos Lassen

A menacing young man (Edward Akrout) breaks into a suburban home and encounters a married couple, Tom (Matt Barber) and Allison (Megan Maczko) having sex. He quickly ties them up and tortures the man who he puts in the bathtub and forces Allison to watch.

First time screenwriter Mark Rogers has quite brutally explored the terrible impact of domestic violence in “Deadly Virtues” but it is so deeply buried beneath the torturous moments that it fails to connect with the audience.

 Sadomasochism and rape on the screen are hard to watch and we want to know why this is happening. We do not get the heartbreaking back-story until the finale. This is a somber story that requires a degree of patience and resilience to see all the way through.

We realize that there is a strained form of bondage that has held the marriage together. The intruder is the catalyst to spark change, the necessary force to get Alison to improve the condition of her rotting marriage. The intruder is the driving force and the necessary antidote for to reflect upon her predicament and take action. “Deadly Virtues” is a horribly and finely nuanced examination of hurt, anger and hidden love.

The premise is simple. An obscured man (Edward Akrout) breaks into a suburban home and makes his way upstairs. He picks up a woman’s shoe on the staircase and smells it. The camera lingers on the under-toe sole and the overall impression is one of distaste. He continues up the beige staircase as we become increasingly aware of the lovemaking sounds at the top of the stairs and we soon see the young couple engaging in a bit of light bondage. He enters the room and prepares to join in.

The sadomasochistic role-play is taken to an extreme with the dominant partner’s knowledge of both psychology and physiology that both confirms and then completely disrupts the idea of consent. The point of the drama seems to show that our mainstream sexual cultures are based upon an almost childlike “understanding of sex as a game rather than as the biological response to physical touch. What is more, the depiction and justification of rape culture is part of the story and it is true to the characters and it is not to be denied or ignored”. We see the Tom’s fingers slip inside the shiny second skin that Allison is wearing while tied to the bed and we hear her panting and see her tear-stained cheek all the while he discusses how victims often feel pleasure at the time of the crime despite its circumstance. The effect is visually incredibly erotic and at the same time cold and horrifying to hear.

The film is looks at the difference between true BDSM relationships, the ‘couple play’ associated with pretty little whips and clean, shiny latex and the misunderstanding of these relationships that is regarded as psychopathy. By concentrating on the subject through the shifting gaze of the players in the context of a simple home invasion thriller, it leads us to think about the nature of physical and mental consent and how likely we all are to do things against what we understand as our own will.

Edward Akrout as Aaron combines a sadism that manages to be quite disgusting with a sexiness that relies not so much on charisma but on his gestures that he carefully controls. He is dominant and each twitch of his eyebrows and mouth says something about the lining of the mind and body with his d philosophy. He does not just play the role, he enters in completely. As the film moves forward, his performance makes it clear he is not simply a villain, but a true dominant male in every sense of the word.

Megan Maczko is also stimulating as Alison. She matches the film’s tone with perfect poise. She has plenty of very emotional scenes and when she cries, the emotion always feels somewhat deadened. She comes across as someone sleep talking around her existence and is riveting. Matt Barber as Tom feels less real than the other two but he is also excellent.

During one weekend, “our grand-inquisitor/marriage-guidance counselor from hell” explores and exploits Alison and Tom’s relationship, uncovers uncomfortable truths and acts as a catalyst for extreme liberation.  

Zoran Veljkovic’s cinematography enriches the drama and infuses it with arresting images and a visual palette. Almost abstract-like close-ups of a dripping tap, and a pivotal wine-drinking scene played out largely in shadow complement and enhance the narrative are amazing.

“ALL THIS PANIC”— Teenage Girls in Brooklyn

“All This Panic”

Teenage Girls in Brooklyn

Amos Lassen

Shot over a three-year period with great intimacy and access, “All This Panic” is a feature length documentary that looks intimately at the interior lives of a group of teenage girls as they come of age in Brooklyn. We follow the girls as they transition between childhood and adulthood.

Director Jenny Gage’s chose to shoot her subjects—several teenage girls growing up in New York City—in extreme shallow focus and often with fluid, fluttering camerawork “All This Panic” is Gage’s debut feature and it captures the intensity of teen angst, the daily struggle of sex, parents, friendship strife, and adulthood hanging over the girls’ heads. one’s head. Gage filmed her subjects as they make the transition from high school to the “real world.” Filmed primarily in intimate small-group settings, we watch as these girls gossip, party, smoke weed, struggle to have sex, deal with family issues, and worry about their respective futures. We actually watch the girls as they grow up in front of our eyes.

They speak openly about sex (a lot) and deal with major issues of race, delinquent parents, sexuality and we soon realize that even when we laugh at them we are listening to their every word. The way these teens are treated with seriousness is rare what makes “All This Panic” such a refreshing documentary.


The film probably might have benefitted from greater diversity— there is only one girl of color and she seems somewhat divorced from the rest of the girls, though her statements on the discomfort of being a black girl at a primarily white school give some clarification why this is. The film is not a definitive statement on teen hood but an impressionistic series of photographed snapshots of a particular set of girls in a particular part of New York City at a particular time. What we get is a tone, a feeling that anyone who’s ever been a teen (and that is everyone) will recognize. While some of the stresses of those years dissolve, the question of what each girl wants does not.

The girls are an interconnected group of sisters and friends. More abstract and philosophical than a traditional documentary, we learn of the dreams and fears and hopes of the girls in what seems like a fictional narrative but is all too true. The girls have to understand what they want from life, what they want from romance, what it means to take those first steps out from under the shadow and protection of (or, in some cases, lack of) their parents. We see a compassionate slow-reveal of the psyches of adolescent girls and it is quite an experience. It’s also enormously heartening for anyone who worries about how the world today seems to push kids to grow up too quickly. The way these girls talk about their experiences with and attitudes about alcohol, drugs, and sex is reassuring: they worry about growing up too fast too, and they’re navigating dangerous waters just fine. The beauty here is in the impressions and perceptions. The varied experiences of these young women show us the fluid nature of getting older, each subject reaching milestones at different times, or not perhaps not even reaching the same milestones at all. Its structural looseness and its intuitive images are its greatest plus.

“YOGA HOSERS”— Colleen and Colleen


Colleen and Colleen

Amos Lassen

Kevin Smith’s latest feature, “Yoga Hosers” looks at Instagram, yoga, current slang and female empowerment angle. The film is also a horror movie about bratwurst Nazis as well as a kind of musical. We see Canada as a fantasy world that is completely alien to Americans.

The film follows two high school friends— Colleen (played by Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp, the daughters of the film’s director and co-star, respectively). The Colleens work at a convenience store named “Eh-to-Zed” and this film is a loose narrative about high school life, including the Colleens being forced to work in lieu of attending a senior class party. It is also a story about the killer sausage krauts, and there is another horror plotline involved as well.

The film’s setup is essentially one long diversion. Our characters and the important setting are introduced in the first ten minutes, and then we are taken away into a lengthy school sequence that serves no narrative function. Characters are introduced, given long dialogues with our heroes, and then disappear from the film.The plot begins about 40 minutes into the film, the plot begins. There really is not of a story (or comedy as far as that goes). Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose have decent chemistry with one another. It is when they interact with others in the film that the film flounders.

Justin Beiber lookalike Austin Butler is the real star of the film and he delivers a funny performance. , I see “Yoga Hosers” as a kind of homage to B-movie exploitation horror films. Kevin Smith seems to be losing his touch and his films that were once so interesting are not as interesting as they were once.

It seems that the film tries to prevent its own inevitable criticism by having a character set out to destroy all critics. However, the character just so happens to be a Nazi and that commentary is lost.

The girls battle an army of foot-tall Nazis made of sausage. This is a vague movie about two girls who just want to go to a party with twelfth-graders but wind up battling an army of knee-high Nazis made of sausage. These Nazis love to kill strangers by crawling into men’s rectums (Now this is really strange).

The Colleens, reluctantly work behind the counter at the convenience store owned by one of the Colleen’s father. The girls are bored and are always on their phones inventing any excuse to put up a “temporarily closed” sign and go goof off in the back.

This is an extravagantly ridiculous tale that accommodates everything from a Manitoban Nazi to crudely animated sentient pieces of German-accented, Mountie-dressed talking bratwurst (called, naturally, “Brat-zis”). We also have Canadian caricatures, bathroom humor, and satire aimed at the millennial set, revolving around such things as the pretentiousness of yoga.

Smith remains obsessed with spraying contempt at a younger generation. It seems that the film is meant, to some degree, to chronicle the two girls’ increasing awareness of a world outside their narrow fame-obsessed purview.

Ultimately, though, any attempts at moralizing are lost with Smith reacting to his critics. are subsumed by Smith’s obsession with taking aim at his critics. Take for example the Canadian Nazi It turns out that the film’s villain—a Canadian Nazi (played by Haley Joel Osment in fake archival footage, and Ralph Garman in the present day) who has managed to stay alive by freezing himself for 75 years before the two Colleens accidentally wake him up. He wants to become a world famous and decides to kill all art critics and is not interested in Hitler-like world domination through racial genocide.

“OUT OF DARKNESS”— Alienated and Disconnected

“Out of  Darkness”

Alienated and Disconnected

Amos Lassen

After returning from war, a young man finds himself alienated from his family and disconnected from the faith he once knew. He must decide between following his destiny to be a leader of men, or turn his back on his faith forever.

Eli (Adam Davis) is a man in his twenties with a calling on his life from a young age, but he has avoided that calling. After his father fired him from his job running from that calling, an argument with his girlfriend in front of their daughter, and a visit to the local pub, Eli decides to get out of town. As he drives on a mountain highway, he misses a turn and careens over an embankment, landing deep in the forest. He finds himself in a mysterious place with nowhere to go. It is here that God begins to help since Satan is not far behind. God works to convince Eli to take a different path. In the end Eli is faced with a choice that will have repercussions on generations as we find out that years later he becomes an evangelist preacher.

I truly hate movies of this kind—I do not believe that films that try to force viewers to believe in God have any value rather than for the Christian right that tries to gain as many followers as possible through any means possible. Because of that it is difficult to give this a fair review because of my own personal biases. I was fine with the film until the religious aspects entered the screenplay and I really did not want to watch anymore but I forced myself to do so. The film is well made and the acting is fine but the story still bothers me. I think it is only fair that I let viewers know this before they begin and I am sure that the film will find its audience right next to the “Left Behind” series. Please understand that I am not panning the film— I am simply stating that it is not for me.


“Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders”

The Inside Story

Amos Lassen

Through the use of police case files, taped confessions never before shown on film, and interviews with lead detective Greg Kading and other witnesses, we can now understand what happened to bring about the murders of Biggie and Tupac. The film is based on taped confessions of key players involved in the murders of late rap icons Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. In these confessions we learn exactly who were involved in both hits, who the respective shooters were, and who ordered the respective murders. The extremely compelling and convincing evidence points to two very prominent persons. The film is based upon the criminal investigation of detective, Greg Kading.

Even those who do not like rap music (myself included) will find a very compelling story here, yet because of unfortunate and vexing circumstances that are revealed in the film, these murders are still unprosecuted. It was some twenty years ago that fans lost two of the greatest hip-hop acts of all time to violence— to two drive by shootings in cold blood, just six months apart.

Greg Kading here reveals all of the important facts regarding the investigation into the murders. It had been determined that Biggie and Tupac were murdered as a result of the infamous feud between Tupac/Suge Knight of Death Row records, and Biggie/Puffy Combs of Bad Boy records. The two opposing camps had affiliated themselves with rival gangs in Los Angeles: The MOB Piru Bloods of Compton and their rivals, the South Side Compton Crips. This began with tit-for-tat retaliations that ultimately resulted in the murders of the two hip-hop stars. Almost immediately at the beginning of the film, we see and hear the original taped interviews of all of the witnesses involved in the cases. Michael Dorsey, the director, has brought us a documentary that is clinical in the way it approaches this story. We learn of how the feud between these two camps began and the events that took place on the nights of the murders. It then debunks one of the most popular conspiracy theories that fans are familiar with: that dirty cops from the Los Angeles police department were involved in a conspiracy to murder Biggie Smalls at the behest of Suge Knight.

Most of the documentary deals with what the police investigation yielded through their efforts. We learn what information and leads the police had at their fingertips for all these years. In both of these cases, the important witnesses would not come forward to talk or cooperate with police. What the documentary reveals publicly for the first time is a controversial and astounding account of the murder of Tupac.

With Suge Knight was their prime suspect in the conspiracy to have Biggie murdered in retaliation for Tupac, the documentary moves onto Biggie’s investigation. We see how the detectives were able to extract another confession by using the same approach to the Biggie investigation as they did on the Tupac one.

We see evidence and new material that it is invaluable and there is the great possibility that this movie will help solve the case. We have heard the conspiracy theories and made up stories from witnesses but here Greg Kading, put together a brilliant case against the real murderers of the two rap stars and the evidence was enough to put the major culprits, Puffy and Suge Knight, behind bars for a very long time. However, when the case got dropped and the evidence got shelved, it seems like Tupac and Biggie family will never get justice for there murders. It is a bit hard to believe that the evidence didn’t come out on a worldwide scale and people are still making up there own stories about what happened on both nights of the murders.


“Jim: The James Foley Story”

A Journey

Amos Lassen

Many know of Jim Foley as the first American citizen executed by the Islamic State. In his new documentary, Brian Oakes, reconstructs Foley’s soul searching that began in earnest when he quit teaching to become a journalist. Foley rid himself of worldly possessions and traveled to spots where the cost of living was low and freelance work easy to line up.

Foley’s family members, colleagues and prison cell mates vividly speak about his 2011 imprisonment in Libya, his difficulty returning to home life in New England after his release and then leaving again for Syria and enduring imprisonment by ISIS. He was abducted in Syria in 2012 and then publicly beheaded by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) eighteen months later.  His compelling story told this HBO documentary by Brian Oakes  who had been Foley’s friend since first grade, and we see here how this man from a tight-knit large New England Catholic family ended up on the front line of a war zone.

Foley with his four siblings had a conventional upbringing, but he was a restless soul as a young adult and tried his hand at all sorts of enterprising ventures like teaching kids in a juvenile detention center. He never really found what he was looking for until in 2009 he decided that he wanted to go overseas as a war correspondent. He had not had any training to do so when he hooked up with a small itinerant band of other freelance journalists in Libya with who he bonded and from whom he quickly learned from. He used his charm and optimism to make up for his lack of experience. 

Two years into his stint in Libya, Foley was captured by Gaddafi loyalist forces and held prisoner for 44 days.  The moment the news of his abduction reached his family they began a high profile campaign to secure his release, and when they succeeded there was much relief all when he came home. Whilst his siblings and parents were happy to have him back, Foley however was not so happy. Even the offer of a desk job in Boston at the HQ of Global Post  who he reported for back in Libya, was not enough to keep him from wanting return to the front line.  When he soon decided this is what he would indeed do, he chose to go to Syria even with all of the danger involved.

Oakes shows us Foley an old-fashioned romantic who was an incredibly resourceful and unselfish man and who never showed any sense of personal danger. Foley was simply determined to play his part in making the world aware of the atrocities that were being carried about in the dangerous war-zones, hoping with dialogue from all this information, some change might occur. However, before he could even send much footage back in November 2012 Foley was abducted and held captive.

This time however there was so much misinformation that even the State Department could not establish who in fact was holding Foley and even which region was holding him. There was eventually email correspondence from people who claimed to be holding Foley and they issued demands for a tremendous ransom and they offered proof that they indeed had captured him. Foley’s family prepared to raise the demanded money needed. However communication with them ended as abruptly as it had started and since the State Department proved reluctant to help pursue the matter, it was dropped.

During most of the time, Foley was held by the Syrians and this was learned from some European photojournalists who were also imprisoned with him for the best part of 18 months, but who managed to be released. Their testimony shows the inhumane and violent horrors at the hands of their vicious and vindictive captors.

The documentary shows video of a shaved-head Foley wearing bright orange robes making an anti-American speech with a defiant look on his face.  It is never really clear why he was killed, especially since all the other journalists were freed.  One of his ex-colleagues says that Foley would have been really annoyed that the world’s attention on his death was a in fact distraction from his own work exposing the massive human rights crisis in the region is neglected.   Foley’s elder and somewhat conservative brother who deeply regretted that this job in the United States Air Force may have caused Foley’s problems, but more importantly he said that he had never ever really understood or appreciated him as much as he did now.

Director Oakes reclaims the existence of his childhood friend from the unspeakably brutal images that filled screens across the world on 19 August 2014. Likewise he restores humanity to a subject of truly sickening headline news, and he succeeds in giving us a look at a man whose bravery, dedication to his work and philanthropy is visible in every frame.

Though Oakes’ doc champions the plight of an unbreakable human spirit, it is impossible to avoid that watershed moment in the evolution of ISIS. We seen Foley with defiance delivering a pre-prepared speech of words that were not his own. We do not see what followed even though it looms large in the mind.. The participation of Foley’s parents and siblings is stirring, and commendable, given how soon interviews with them were conducted after the devastation of his horrible death. They hold back tears and seem stoic as they speak of Jim Foley.

The grief-fed indignation we all feel about this turns into respect for a man who remained true to himself and his values. The final third is almost a separate film unto itself. Through the testimony of other journalists held with Foley, we hear the debilitating truths of their captivity and these accentuate the level of suffering inflicted. Foley’s spirit is felt as his memory leaves the walls that restrained them. Oakes’ successfully separates the man from the martyr and presents him as an example of free speech and kindness.