“Jim: The James Foley Story, from HBO Documentary Films” WAC 2/2/2016 Event

On the evening of February 2, the World Affairs Council partnered with HBO Documentary Films to hold a special sneak peek showing of Jim: The James Foley Story at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Jim: The James Foley Story premiered in January (2016) at the U.S. Documentary Competition of the Sundance Film Festival, and won the Audience Award for a U.S. Documentary. The film will air on HBO Saturday, February 6 at 9:00 PM (EST).

The Film

American photojournalist James Foley was kidnapped in Syria and went missing for two years before the infamous video of his public execution sent shockwaves and introduced much of the world to ISIS. Jim: The James Foley Story, directed by close childhood friend Brian Oakes, unveils his life through intimate interviews with his family, friends and fellow journalists – while fellow hostages reveal never-before-heard details of his captivity in Syria. The documentary takes the audience from small-town New England to the adrenaline-fueled front lines of Libya and Syria, where Foley worked to document combats and the plight of civilians impacted by war. Through the telling of so many stories, from so many perspectives, we learn about James Foley as a person: who he was to his family and friends, what motivated him as a journalist, how he lived his life, and how ultimately he will be remembered by the people who knew him best.

More than 400 community members joined us for the screening and were invited to stay for a post-film discussion with the former Senior Correspondent and Associate Editor of The Washington Post Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The conversation was moderated by World Affairs Council President and CEO Jacqueline Miller. Mr. Chandrasekaran—whose extensive career in journalism has taken him to Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia—shared his thoughts on the film, discussed the changing field of journalism, and dissected the contextual forces that propelled James Foley’s career. He contrasted his own time as a war correspondent in Baghdad in 2003, to the types of conflict correspondence that occur today, and detailed differences between what one audience member termed ‘lone wolf journalism’ and what Rajiv called ‘heyday journalism’. As less and less media networks station and support journalists on the ground, individuals are increasingly required to sacrifice their safety in order to tell the stories that deserve to be told. The role of responsibility in protecting U.S. journalists was discussed, as members of the audience reflected on James Foley’s tragic death and the likelihood of a similar scenario happening again in the future.  

Thank you to everyone who came out to watch the film with us on Tuesday, to our partner HBO Documentary Films, and to SIFF for hosting this event.