This is the first film in recent memory that I came close to turning off, repeatedly, not out of boredom but because its subject was just too painful to watch. I made it through, but at times I found myself grappling with the ethics of a film that . . . entails watching as otherwise normal little boys are systematically turned into monsters. . . . Knowing that they will all squander their young lives getting blown to bits for Al Nusra, the film is a bit like watching children play in traffic.
This is an extremely accomplished and upsetting documentary that, in a better world, would not need to exist. . . . Derki’s film is an amazing feat of staying calm in circumstances where I personally would be just praying to survive, let alone having the fortitude to think about framing — the distance between the camera and a gun/mine is often alarmingly close, and even though the director was there and obviously intact to introduce the film, it’ll make you sweat.
An admirably audacious feat of documentarian access, Of Fathers and Sons is of obvious topical and anthropological interest as a glimpse into the gradual radicalization of young males and the deep community ties which underpin the process. While unambiguously disapproving in its overall tone . . . , it commendably avoids presenting Abu Osama as a two-dimensional fanatic, instead intelligently probing the roots of his anger and passionate involvement in armed struggle.