My Trip To Al Qaeda
Academy Award winning-director Alex Gibney’s 2010 documentary of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright’s book-turned-play "My Trip to al-Qaeda" is deep and devastating, and out just in time to accompany Salman Rushdie’s fatwa memoir "Joseph Anton" and its eerie, poorly produced, echo: the current jihadist fervor over the anti-Islam YouTube posting.
Footage from the 2006 solo show is spliced among interviews from around the globe, archival stills and ruthless film clips, a similar "where does hate come from" exploration to Spalding Gray’s seminal monologue-turned-movie "Swimming to Cambodia."
Wright’s research about al-Qaeda before and after 9/11 was so comprehensive that the FBI tapped his phones and put his young daughter on a watch list. And that’s one of the points of the film: what has America become after terrorist attacks? Wright wonders "what has happened to us as a people?"
Then he shows us. The play is segmented into seven sections, which show how the history of Osama bin Laden’s movement was inevitable. In areas where terrorists are recruited, there’s nothing to do, no entertainment or recreation or romantic contact, so al-Qaeda’s "trademark" suicide attacks are an easy sell, in line with their motto: "you love life; we love death."
When a young man has no power in his world, messianic bin Laden offered them glory. Someone once a surgeon can be made into a butcher. A sect where hate is narcotic; where religious humility is twisted into the subversive power of humiliation.
The well-documented 90-minute narrative starts with "them," and circles back to us. Wright admits he struggled between being a journalist and an American: should he interview or retaliate? He asks if we have followed the better angels of our nature, or are we doing the terrorists work for them? By being just as brutal with waterboarding and the like, torture plays into bin Laden’s plan, that Americans will terrorize themselves. Wright asks, "how we can have a new life without reckoning with our past?"
"My Trip to Al-Qaeda" is brutal and vital. Yet we must face this, our own, truth. Otherwise, terror wins.
"My Trip to Al-Qaeda"