In early 2000, Al Qaeda was waging war in Saudi Arabia, they were also filming themselves at war and training, whilst the security services also filmed. Path Of Blood, is that footage.
The opening scene of Path Of Blood is perhaps the most bizarre opening to a documentary I have ever witnessed. I almost switched it off, thinking it was actually a mockumentary, in very poor taste.
A bunch of young men are laughing and joking, attempting to do take after take to camera, making each other mess-up and laugh. It’s all weirdly familiar and fun, until you realise that what’s being asked of the man on camera is what he’ll feel when he blows himself, and a lot of innocent people, up.
We see the same men laughing and joking outside as they have wheelbarrow races in the desert sun. One asking for the footage to be deleted because his trousers fell down.
It all feels wrong. It feels wrong to be watching them, it feels wrong to have them in anyway humanised or that they can be in anyway ‘normal’. But then, what did we expect? A bunch of men sat around constantly raging at the West?
Anyone who has ever spent time with a bunch of men will know that things quickly descend to crude jokes, drinking and swearing. Apart from the latter, it seems these men are no different.
But then, of course they are different. These are men training, preparing themselves to die in the name of what they believe and kill as many innocent people as they can in the process.
Path Of Blood is the latest, and some may say controversial, documentary from filmmaker Jonathan Hacker (Britain’s First Suicide Bombers, Zero Hour (TV)).
Using footage captured from Al Qaeda in Saudi and footage from the Saudi police and special forces, Hacker has put together an uncompromising view on the war on terror.
We see various members of Al Qaeda, from lowly fighters to ‘high up’ generals, as they prepare for attack after attack after attack.
Who are they attacking? It seems anyone and everyone who isn’t in their corner, including plenty of other Muslims as well as Americans, Brits, South Africans the list goes on.
Hacker leaves in much of what you’d expect others would probably take out. There’s blood, lots of blood, bodies – some charred out of humanity – explosions, gun battles and a particularly gruesome, unflinching account, and look, at the results of what happens when a grenade goes off inside the human body.
Samuel West (Darkest Hour, Mr Selfridge (TV)) is the narrator, his deep, dark voice booms but remains stable, almost monotone, showing no affliction or bias. Tom Hollander (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Muppets Most Wanted) provides some of the voices of the Jihad.
Besides the blood, bodies, rhetoric, firefights, explosions and bombs, actually what makes Path Of Blood difficult to watch is that Hacker, purposefully, doesn’t take sides. He shows what he’s found and it’s up to you to make up your own mind. Some will find that easy, for others, I suspect not so much.