By Domenico Letizia. Traduction from Italian Carol Simonetti.
Underestimating the political and social phenomena of our contemporaneity is never a wise thing, also because in the globalized world in which we live, even distant events that apparently do not concern us, often end up significantly influencing our lifestyle.
Fortunately, when the political class fails to trigger those social mechanisms of popular reflection, entertainment, theatre, training cinema and culture can do so. For several months, especially in conjunction with mourning events that, in France as well as in London, have hit the beating heart of Europe, we have been bombarded with news regarding the tragedy of ISIS.
At the moment, the news see a weakening of the debate and analysis on what has been and still is a very important historical phenomenon: the birth, emergence and spread of the Islamic State. In this sense, it is useful to put the spotlight on one of the many stories that have attracted, frightened and paralyzed international public opinion in the recent past: we refer to the story of Dimitri Bontinck, the former Belgian soldier who became famous for having challenged and defeated ISIS, managing to bring home their son Jay, who enlisted in the ranks of the terror army as a foreign fighter.
In Belgium, a few meters from the house where the Bontinck family led their quiet life, there was the headquarters of Sharia4Belgium, one of the most complex and effective jihadist networks in Europe. In 2013, this network was led by Fouad Belkacem, an important figure, well known among geopolitical analysts and a decidedly extremist preacher.
Jay is a boy who, like many others, after having approached Islam for the love of a girl he met at that time, remains increasingly involved in the extremist network, until he becomes a member of it and leaves as a fighter for Syria.
When Bontinck discovers that his son, who has just come of age, despite having told him to leave for Egypt to study Arabic is actually headed for the front, his life changes. The father is aware that jihadist extremist groups indoctrinate young Westerners, thanks to the internet and the pounding “digital propaganda”, depriving them of their daily life and their families. Jay’s story is common to that of many young Europeans, who left for the Middle East and ended up fighting the same West in which they grew up and who in a very short time find themselves having to face the Syrian tragedy, the Russian bombing and Islamic fundamentalism.
Dimitri refuses to accept this cruel fate for his son, who, ended the initial impetus and, having become aware of the cruelty that moves his fellow believers, decides to return home, is held prisoner by the militiamen in Aleppo. Faced with the inability of the Belgian authorities to implement any useful intervention to find his son, Bontinck decides to leave alone to bring him home, risking everything. Jay’s story intersects in this period with numerous events that are part of contemporary history and meeting other young Westerners who have become victims of extremism, despite themselves. Like James Foley, the later beheaded US reporter and John Cantlie, the British journalist used by ISIS as a means of political propaganda.
Having overcome enormous hardships, Bontinck reaches the inflamed territory of Syria and, after being taken prisoner and tortured, is released, managing to reunite with his son thanks to infinite determination and a bit of luck.
The story of Jay’s desperate search has become a book and is now about to become a movie, thanks to an Italian company, RALIAN Research & Consultancy, which has managed to have an exclusive contract with the author, for the marketing of the rights.
RALIAN, having among its mission consultancy to companies operating in the cultural sector, with special regard to the field of cinema, has decided to undertake this initiative to enhance the cultural, political and social message that cinema can transmit. In their capacity as a driving force for creativity and revolutionary ideas in support of industry, cultural and creative companies are faced with information gaps, a lack of supporters able to perceive the potential, discrepancies and legislative deficiencies.