Amid the controversy surrounding recent travel restrictions imposed by the new presidential administration, Showtime has announced that American Jihad, a documentary detailing the experiences of Jihadists and the recruiting methods that terrorist organizations use to increase membership, will air on March 11 at 8/9 central. The documentary will also be shown at Big Sky’s Documentary Film Festival next month.
The project will be directed by Alison Ellwood and produced by Sarah Dowland. Ellwood has directed History of The Eagles and edited well-known documentaries like Enron: The Smartest Guys in The Room, Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson, and Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place, among others.
Ellwood and Dowland were said to have been inspired by Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg’s film, Patriots Day, which follows a fictional police officer investigating the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. Showtime has also paired up with Alex Gibney who is set to executive produce the documentary for the network. Gibney is known for directing a slew of high-profile documentaries, including Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief, We Steal Secrets:The Story of Wikileaks, and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. He has won numerous Emmys for his documentary work.
There is still a lot of confusion among westerners about how terrorist organizations recruit members and what drives individuals to feel compelled towards Jihad, especially Americans. American Jihad will focus specifically on how United States citizens become radicalized and join these organizations as well as what we can do as a country to prevent it from happening.
The film will also look at Anwar al-Awlaki, a known al-Queda operative, and his cultural impact in the United States. Al-Awlaki was described by Saudi News as ‘the bin-Laden of the internet.’ Although his parents were from Yemen, he was born in New Mexico and attended college in the United States. In a statement released by Showtime, he is described as,
‘…the first American-born terrorist targeted and killed by a U.S. drone strike overseas, his death held worldwide political implications and invigorated the momentum of U.S. radicalism…whose charismatic, highly personal recruitment tactics were responsible for influencing other Americans to the Jihadist cause.’
Despite his death in 2011, his writings and videos still remain immensely popular and circulate on the internet. Unfortunately, he has gone on to inspire attacks well after his death, including the Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernadino shooting in 2015, and the Orlando nightclub massacre of 2016.
The documentary will seek to shed light on American citizens who are influenced to carry out attacks within the nation. With the current climate of Islamic xenophobia, it will undoubtedly shed a necessary light on a very real problem in American society.