Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lawrence Wright's "My Trip to Al-Qaeda": part lecture, part play, part documentary

On Thursday, Sept. 30, HBO presented the documentary “My Trip to Al-Qaeda”, directed by Alex Gibney, written by professor Lawrence Wright.

Dr. Wright starts with his own time in 1969 at the American University in Cairo but quickly moves into an illustrated lecture or monologue (set up as a one-person play) giving a history of radical Islam, and his exploration of it.

He describes the hajj as a dress rehearsal for the process from life to death, with complete subjugation to God.

He describes Saudi Arabia as a place with no sense of democratic participation in public life as we know it; one always knows one’s “place” relative to royalty.

He describes 9/11 as having a “Hollywood” aspect.

The HBO mirror website is here. The film apparently was shown at Tribeca.

He describes what expectations must have been like for Osama bin Laden’s first wife; everyone was struck with this concept “I chose humility, but humiliation is forced on me”. It goes back to Sept. 11, 1683. He says “the humiliated have a license to regain their dignity”, and explains how humiliation, and the addictive hatred associated with it, “sells”. He goes on to explain the nihilism of Al Qaeda ideology.

He describes a visit from the FBI, wanting to know about calls made to London from his phone. His daughter gets linked to their lists, and finds out the FBI has been listening in.

Bin Laden said “all I have to do is make a statement, and the Americans will terrorize themselves.” Then “Al Qaeda can’t destroy America. Only we can do that to ourselves.” And the film ends.

As filmmaking goes, how effective is "the annotated lecture" without even an interviewer?  All Gore made it work in "An Inconvenient Truth".

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