The last time many Americans saw the late journalist James Foley, he was on his knees in an orange jumpsuit reciting a message of ISIS propaganda, beside a man dressed in black with a knife.
But in Jim: The James Foley Story, the latest entry in a growing canon of American films and books about the fallen war correspondent, a childhood friend of Foley's sets out to humanize the freelance conflict reporter whose horrific beheading became a widely viewed piece of ISIS propaganda 2014. The documentary traces Foley’s path to journalism, his imprisonment in Libya in 2011, his return to Syria the following year, and the excruciating toll two years of captivity took on him and his family.
Bob speaks to filmmaker Brian Oakes, and to Clare Gillis, a journalist who was held hostage with Foley in Libya, about what pulled Jim to cover conflict, the balance between honoring and glorifying a person and his work, and the film’s effort to reclaim a beloved journalist’s final moments.
THE HBO DOCUMENTARY FILM JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY DEBUTS ON FEBRUARY 6th ON HBO.
"Final Retribution" by John Zorn
BOB: This is On the Media. I’m Bob Garfield. A documentary premiering on HBO this weekend is the latest entry in a growing canon of American films and books about the fallen war correspondent. But the details of this journalist’s death … many of us already know far too well.
CBS: An online video from ISIS shows a man believed to be James Foley with his head cut off, a message in English appears, saying the execution is in retaliation for US air strikes on ISIS forces in Iraq.
ABC: The video appears to show 40-year-old James Foley on his knees in an orange
prison jumpsuit, with his executioner next to him holding a knife in his left hand.
BOB: “Jim: The James Foley Story,” paints a richer picture of the life of James Foley, one of the first American citizens to be killed by ISIS nearly 2 years after he was abducted in Syria. The film traces his path to journalism and the pull he felt toward conflict zones, his 44-day captivity in Libya in 2011, his return to Syria the next year, and the excruciating toll his two-year imprisonment by ISIS took on him, his fellow captives and his large family. Interwoven into the harrowing narrative is Foley’s own videography, taken in war-torn Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.
FOLEY: There does seem to be a strong sense that they won’t give up the fight and that there are a force of young fighting men. although unorganized, there’s plenty of will to hold out here...
BOB: Directed by Brian Oakes, “Jim: The James Foley Story” won the audience award for US documentary at the Sundance film festival last week. I’m joined by Oakes, as well as Clare Gillis, a journalist who was held hostage with Foley in Libya back in 2011, and is featured in the film. Brian and Clare, welcome to On the Media.
BOB: Clare Gillis is a journalist currently teaching at Dartmouth College. Brian Oakes is the director of Jim: The James Foley Story, which debuts this weekend on HBO.
BOB: That’s it for this week’s show. On The Media is produced by Kimmie Regler, Meara Sharma, Alana Casanova-Burgess, Jesse Brenneman and Mythili Rao. We had more help from Dasha Lisitsina, Alex Friedland and David Conrad. And our show was edited by… executive producer Katya Rogers. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. Our engineer this week was Casey Means and Casey Holford.
Jim Schachter is WNYC’s Vice President for news. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. On the Media is a production of WNYC Studios. Brooke Gladstone will be (completely) back next week. I’m Bob Garfield.