By Gregory Crofton
At first JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY seems routine in respect to its genre — well-intentioned photo journalist faces down the realities of war. It certainly feels like we’ve seen that film before (“Which Way Is The Frontline From Here?). But as JIM progressed it broadened its focus to reveal the horrors of being held captive by terrorists for a long period of time. It also deals with the thorny issue of whether governments ought to pay ransom for the release of a prisoner.
And of course Foley’s story is horrifying unique. While working as a video and photo journalist, Foley was abducted not once but twice, in Afghanistan and then in Syria. After the hard work of his close-knit family from Massachusetts, his captors released him unharmed the first time around. It was in Syria, after more than a year of imprisonment, that he was beheaded on camera by the Islamic State or ISIS. ISIS posted the video of his execution on social media and millions of people around the world watched it.
This documentary doesn’t show the act. It does show Foley’s face and the muscles clenching in his neck just before it. But that terror is far from the emotional center of the film. Its center is the generous, and the almost unbelievably good, spirit of James Foley. Even his brothers didn’t really
understand what made him tick. But through this tragedy, and the filmmaker’s work to document his life, we can see some of the things that drove him.
If someone had to be on their knees in the desert with a big knife at their neck, it seems Foley was somehow ready to make that sacrifice for us all.