September 19, 2016 — Jim: The James Foley Story was recognized as one of the top documentary films of the year at the 2016 Emmy® Awards ceremonies, winning the award for “Exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking.”
Jim is a powerful memoir of a man whose death became a symbol of international terrorism: Many Americans remember with horror the image of a young American man, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, reading an anti-American diatribe just before an ISIS terrorist beheads him. It was 2014, and it was perhaps the first time Americans started to understand the nature of what was happening in the Middle East and the brutality of the regime that was coming to power. Anyone who saw the footage is unlikely to have forgotten it.
James Foley was a photojournalist who had gone to the Middle East in an attempt to show Americans what was happening in the region. The images of his death brought the horror into America’s living rooms.
Jim: The James Foley Story, is a documentary made by Brian Oakes, a childhood friend of Foley’s. There is no pretense that this film is a “warts-and-all” look at the man. It is an attempt, however, to take back the story from the killers. This is the story of a human being with a life that mattered, who should not be remembered only for the final cruel moments leading to his death.
Oakes, the director, talks to Foley’s relatives who provide him with access a still-grieving family might not have offered to anyone else. Family members admit that they do not entirely understand why Foley, a freelance war correspondent, seemed to have the need to put himself in harm’s way. He had been missing for two years, having been kidnapped in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012. But this was not even the first time he had been taken captive. Gaddafi loyalists had kidnapped him in 2011 in Libya, although they would ultimately release him.
Still, he chose to go back, knowing that his work put him in danger every day. Even though they cannot understand some of the decisions he made, his family’s sense of loss is palpable.
Oakes also interviews some of the journalists who worked with him, hearing stories of the colleague they describe as a good man intent upon showing the world what was happening in the Middle East. To Foley, providing the information and coverage was a cause and a job that mattered.
And finally Oakes speaks with some of the other people who were held captive with Foley. They remember him as a source of comfort, friendship, even as a kind of “invented family” that helped them get through the horrors of their captivity.
James Foley comes through as a human being — not an ISIS trophy.
Jim: The James Foley Story is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, or you can stream it immediately on Amazon Video.