Path of Blood

 

starstarstarstar

 


The fight against al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia as seen through authentic period footage.

 
Path of Blood

  

Ironical though it be, this important, searing film is distributed by Trinity Filmed Entertainment. In point of fact, entertainment is the last word that one would use to describe Path of Blood, but that is as it should be for this is a work that takes as its subject the activities of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2009. As such it is a document of historical importance and all the more so because it consists exclusively of authentic footage taken in those years. The material in question consists of what was shot by al-Qaeda or of what was taken by the security services and the director of this film, Jonathan Hacker, adds nothing in the way of fresh visuals.

 

What this means is that Hacker's function here was to select from what was available and to find the most appropriate way in which to present it. He has done this with skill. To help those without any specialised knowledge of what is depicted, he uses the voice of Samuel West to provide off-screen background information regarding what we are being shown, just enough to give us a context as the history unwinds in chronological order. What we see is largely shown with subtitles, but when the source used is Voice of Jihad as presented online by al-Qaeda the relevant words are read in English by Tom Hollander.

 

Given the nature of the material, Hacker wisely lets it horrify the viewer of its own accord. There is no attempt to trigger emotions through the words spoken by West and Hollander which are deliberately delivered in a matter-of-fact tone. This effectively sets off the bile from al-Qaeda while their own images have an effect not intended when they proudly show young children being made familiar with weapons. Somewhat similarly, the naivety of the youths keen to be mujahedeens renders them pitiful, and all the more so when we glimpse some of them playing games and taking part in races, the natural activities of boys of their age.

 

Presumably because of the many dead bodies shown, the film has an 18 certificate, but Hacker out of respect rarely shows their faces: most telling here is the anonymity of some of the corpses, those who die with no known name. The one fear that one cannot quite throw off when watching Path of Blood is that potential jihadis, whether over the age of 18 or not, might look at the al-Qaeda footage here and embrace it despite this being a film designed to repulse the viewer even as it informs. That point apart, Hacker's film is welcome as a valuable source for future historians concerned with this period: its factual accuracy combined with its many short sequences that take on at times an almost impressionistic quality convey truly and vividly life as it was in and around Riyadh during this time.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  the voices of Samuel West and Tom Hollander.

 

Dir Jonathan Hacker, Pro Jonathan Hacker, Ed Peter Haddon, Music Chad Hobson.

 

Lisa Page1/OR Media-Trinity Filmed Entertainment.
91 mins. UK/USA. 2018. Rel: 13 July 2018. Cert. 18.