Germany, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar


Talal Derki’s new documentary tells the story the young generation in Syria and asks about the future of children, who grew up in the war.

If you want to tame your nightmares, you need to capture them first. That’s what Syrian documentary filmmaker Talal Derki learned from his father. As in his previous film RETURN TO HOMS, he returns to his homeland and becomes part of life in a war zone. For more than two years he lives with the family of Abu Osama, an Al-Nusra fighter in a small village in northern Syria, focusing his camera mainly on the children. From a young age, the boys are trained to follow in their father’s footsteps and become soldiers of God. The horrors of war and the intimacy of family life are never far from one another. At the nearby battlefront Abu Osama fights against the enemy, while at home he cuddles with the boys and dreams of the caliphate. Talal Derki sets out to capture the moment when the children have to let go of their youth and are finally turned into Jihadi fighters. No matter how close the war comes, there's one thing they've already learned: they must never cry.

Director's Statement

As an activist against the Assad regime, I followed my friends in Homs with the camera since the beginning of the demonstrations in spring 2011. I always wanted to experience and document my country’s quest for freedom - a freedom that allows the coexistence of all ethnic groups and religions in Syria and would allow me and my family to return to my home country. I was full of hope and euphoria first, then greatly disappointed by the growing confrontations between the radical groups. Today, the situation in my country is more broken than ever and my dream is fading away.

After my film RETURN TO HOMS, which was about the young rebel Basit Sarout and his comrades, I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to penetrate the psychology and the emotions of this war, understand what made people radicalize and what drives them to live under the strict rules of an Islamic state. In the media, war is often portrayed as a chess game and Islam is labeled as evil. If we see the images of war, we get the feeling that it is a non-real parallel world. In FATHERS & SONS, I want to establish a direct relationship between the protagonists and the audience. I would like to take my audience with me on my journey and communicate with them through my camera.

The main characters of my film are Abu Osama (45), one of the founders of Al-Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al-Qaeda, and his two eldest sons Osama (13) and Ayman (12). I have been living with them over the period of 2 1/2 years and became a part of their family.
Although I am an atheist, I prayed with them every day and led the life of a good Muslim to find out, what is happening in my country. Abu Osama is not only a loving father, but also a specialist for car bomb attacks and the disposal of mines. He deeply believes in an Islamic society under the laws of the Shari'ah, the Caliphate, and therefore he also places his children at its service.

I follow Osama and Ayman to a training camp for young fighters and start to understand how the children are affected, as they really do not have a chance to choose freely. How will I become who I am? Where is hope? What will the future look like? What choices do we have? The children are those who enable us to emotionally experience and understand the complex tragedy of Syria. Often, they are the ones who can look through all the
madness, and in their own childlike way, they can save hope.

FATHERS & SONS is my personal journey through a devastated country and a troubled society, looking for answers to my desperate questions about the future of my country and the future of my family who had to flee into exile.

Director's Biography

Talal Derki was born in Damascus and has been based in Berlin since 2014. He studied film directing in Athens and worked as an assistant director for many feature film productions and was a director for various Arab TV programs between 2009 and 2011. He also worked as a freelance cameraman for CNN and Thomas & Reuters. His short films
and feature length documentaries have received awards at film festivals, most notably his feature documentary RETRUN TO HOMS, which won Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in 2014. He won the same award with his most recent documentary OF FATHERS AND SONS.


nominated for German Film Award LOLA 2019
& Anne Fabini the editor of the documentary is one of the nominees Best Editing
nominated for Academy Award ® 2019 Feature Documentary

Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary Competition @ Sundance 2018
THE GOLDEN HORN for the director of the best film @ Krakow FF 2018
FIPRESCI award @ Krakow FF 2018
Special Jury Mention @ Valletta FF 2018
The Best Doc film @ BIAFF 2018
Silver Star @ El Gouna FF 2018
Best Arab Documentary @ El Gouna FF 2018
Open Borders Fellowship Award presented by Netflix @ Sundance 2018
Big Stamp - International Competition @ ZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival 2018
Moves That Matter Award @ ZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival 2018
The Peter Wintonick Audience Award @ Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival 2018
Best Director @ One World Prague 2018
Main Prize @ 20th Ljubljana Doc Film Festival 2018
The Special 10th Anniversary Prize @ Millenium International Documentary Film Festival Brussels 2018
Special Jury Award @ Full Frame Film Festival 2018
Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award@ Full Frame Film Festival 2018
Best Film Award presented by Amnesty International @ The International Slovenia Documentary Film Festival 2018
Opening Night Ceremony Film @ Festival Visions du Reel 2018
Special Mention @ Cinepolitica Film Festival 2018
Special Mention from the International Jury @ DocumentaMadrid 2018
Best International Feature @ Doc Edge Festival 2018
Grand Prize @ Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival 2018

IDFA Amsterdam
African, Asian and Latin America Film Festival in Milan
Sarasota Film Festival
Moscow International Film Festival
Thessaloniki DFF
Millenium IDFF Brussels
One World Prague
Hot Docs
Helsinki IFF
Sarajevo FF
El Gouna Film Festival
Deutscher Dokumentarfilmpreis 2018 @ SWR Doku Festival
Fritz-Gerlich-Filmpreis @ Filmfest München 2018
Best Film in the section The Journey @ Sole Luna Doc Film Festival 2018
Big Golden Nanook - Grand Prix for the Best Film of the Festival @ IDFF Flahertiana 2018
The Best Doc Film @ Batumi Int. Art House Film Festival 2018
Youth Award @ Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul
AJB Main Award @ Al Jazeera Balkans Documentary Film Festival 2018
Lo Porto Prize @ Terra Di Tutti FF 2018
ANHAR Award for Best Arab Film @ Karama FF 2018
WATCH DOCS Award for best feature-length documentary @ WATCH DOCS Human Rights in Film Festival 2018

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Talal Derki

Produced by: Tobias N. Siebert, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme, Hans-Robert Eisenhauer

Cinematography: Kahtan Hassoun

Editing: Anne Fabini

Original Score: Karim Sebastian Elias

Sound Design: Sebastian Tesch

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2018
  • Documentary Selection 2018