Archives / 2008 Sundance Film Festival

Recycle

Director: Mahmoud al Massad

Description

What makes a terrorist? In Zarqa, Jordan’s second-largest city with close to one million people, it is a much-debated question. Zarqa’s political Islamists are a powerful force in this industrial center, and it is the birthplace of Abu Musa al Zarqawi, the brutal leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was killed by American forces in 2005. Many in town knew al Zarqawi, many in his family remain, and Zarqa continues to be a source of new recruits to the jihadist cause.

Inspired by his reporting on al Zarqawi and Al Qaeda for international news agencies, Jordanian/Palestinian filmmaker Mahmoud al Massad returns to Zarqa, where he grew up, to make Recycle. With ravishing cinematography that belies the unforgiving landscape, Massad charts the daily life of a religious Islamic man trying to survive in one of Zarqa’s poorest neighborhoods.

The film slowly unravels some of the hidden agents of terrorism, revealing them as poverty, humiliation, lack of opportunity, and religious doctrine. Against the backdrop of an age of jihad that spans the globe, these same things define the daily rhythms of a man and his family. Unlike the daily bombardment of dramatic “good and evil” headlines about Islam and the war on terror, Recycle suggests that the potential for evil can emerge quietly in the most ordinary of circumstances.

— Cara Mertes

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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