Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2010: Welcome to the Terrordome


Movie review: ‘American Jihadist’

By Kenn McCracken

Review at a glance: “American Jihadist” is the must-see documentary at Sidewalk, an objective look at American-born Muslim Isa Abdullah Ali.

Isa Abdullah Ali, American Jihadist

Isa Abdullah Ali is the subject of the
documentary, “American Jihadist.”

What drives a person to kill? In the case of jihadists, the answer seems fairly straightforward: religious fervor. As the movie “American Jihadist” shows, though, the answer is rarely that simple or black-and-white.

Wade on Birmingham - Sidewalk Moving Picture FestivalThe documentary screens Sept. 25 at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.

“American Jihadist” is a traditional documentary on some levels, made fascinating by a very unique subject: American-born Muslim Isa Abdullah Ali, born Clevin Raphael Holt. Director Mark Claywell does a phenomenal job of exploring Ali’s story through archival and current footage and extensive interviews with him, his family and religious and government experts and officials.

The result is a penetrating and compelling look into the mind and the heart of a man who has fought for his native country, as well as causes on the other side of the world.

One of the best examples of a feature-length documentary, “American Jihadist” exhibits expert shooting and production, with a strong and fluid narrative thread. Most importantly, though, it presents evidence to answer questions raised, but allows audience members to decide for themselves without an predetermined agenda. A well-produced, truly objective documentary about such an intriguing subject is a welcome addition.

Though the film contains descriptions and depictions of graphic violence, they never feel gratuitous. Instead, the story explores and emphasizes the world that shaped Ali.

I would recommend “American Jihadist” as a must-see among the docs at Sidewalk, particularly in this day and age.

Kenn McCrackenKenn McCracken (@insomniactive) is a director and an award-winning screenwriter (2005 Sidewalk Sidewrite grand prize, “Muckfuppet”). His song “Theme for an Imaginary Revenge” was used in the music video of the same title, screening at Sidewalk on Sept. 25.

He’s also a writer (Birmingham Weekly, Spin.com, mental_floss), a bassist for the Exhibit(s), an eight-time cat juggling champion for Malta and an ongoing experiment in sleep deprivation. He occasionally steals your best ideas to claim at his blog, Dairy of a Madman.

“American Jihadist” will screen at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Alabama Theatre Studio Loft.

Video: Isa Abdullah Ali gives a glimpse into his soul,
in a scene from “American Jihadist.”

Video: Director Mark Claywell talks about
the message of “American Jihadist.”

Video: “American Jihadist” trailer


• • •

Action! Complete Sidewalk Festival coverage.

Leave a Yip

Subscribe without commenting