Path of Blood
This extraordinary but frustrating documentary, assembled from seized home-movie footage, charts the progress of a set of Al Qaeda operatives in a jihadi boot camp in Saudi Arabia as they plan and carry out a series of strikes in the early noughties. The opening sequence sets a horribly surreally dark comic note as a young Al Qaeda member records a video message presumably to be shown posthumously. His chest-beating and threats give way to giggles as he jokes with his comrades about the possibility of getting a decent cup of coffee. Later we see home-movie footage of the unit taking part in a wheelbarrow race in which one of the group’s trousers fall down – it’s more ‘Four Lions’ than hard-hitting documentary. It takes a dark turn as the band carry out three horrific attacks on Western compounds in downtown Riyadh, and the group begin a war of wits with the government forces. As shocking as some of the latter footage is, nothing really has the impact of the early depictions of the young men’s jocular bonding as they prepare to commit mass murder, underlining all too effectively the ease with which young men can be brainwashed. But there is a frustrating dearth of context; 9/11 is alluded to, but never mentioned directly, and makers are incurious about how life in Saudi Arabia may have bred these attitudes, with no reference of Wahhabismat all.