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Remembering James Foley


Of all the images symbolizing our post 9/11 world, few are more searing than the video of American journalist James Foley, moments before his execution by ISIS. With his head shaven, and hands bound, clothed in an orange jump suit, Foley is forced to kneel and recite jihadist propaganda, as a knife-wielding, masked terrorist prepares to decapitate him in the Syrian desert. It was the first act of terror committed against an American by ISIS.

Ever since his death, in 2014, James Foley’s family and friends have tried to ensure that that image is not the way people remember him, and thanks to a powerful new documentary, Jim: The James Foley Story, it won’t be.

Directed by Brian Oakes, a childhood friend of Foley’s, the documentary has one overriding purpose—to reclaim the inspiring life of James Foley, as it actually was, and not, as it’s so often been referenced, by his last painful seconds on earth. That it succeeds so well is a tribute to Oakes, whose patient, understated style allows the people who knew Jim best—his family, friends, co-workers, and fellow hostages—to recount his life, in all its facets.

When we first see James Foley on screen, it’s at Marquette University, his Jesuit alma mater, delivering a speech after having survived captivity in Libya for 44 days. “I’m definitely not a hero or noble or anything,” he says humbly. “I’m just trying to do my work, and got into a little bit of trouble.”

The documentary then flashes to harrowing footage from the Libyan Revolution in 2011—some of it shot by James himself—and goes on to explain how Foley arrived there, and why he felt it so important to stay, despite all the dangers.

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