You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

PopPolitics: ‘Hell on Earth’ Director on the ‘Risk-Reward’ of Filming in Syria (Listen)

The National Geographic documentary “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” drew on more than 1,000 hours of footage and interviews in the war-torn region, proving to be a major challenge for the filmmakers in weighing the safety of journalists on the project.

The movie spotlights a family living under in an area under ISIS control, Shia militias in Iraq, Kurdish fighters in Sinjar and Al Qaeda operatives in Aleppo and Raqqa.

“We analyzed the risk reward on many things,” said Nick Quested, who directed “Hell on Earth” along with Sebastian Junger. “We had many interviews that seemed to be very attractive, and we would decide if these were safe to do. I don’t speak Arabic, so even in an interview it is an egotistical endeavor to go just to do the interview when you can send a journalist who you have prepped and trained who is local to the country and has much less value as a kidnap victim. So the chances of them kidnapping a Syrian are much smaller than a western journalist.”

The movie, which opened this weekend in New York and Los Angeles and airs next month on National Geographic, examines the roots of the Syrian civil war and the emergence of ISIS, but also fears of what lies ahead when it comes to the war on terror. They also feature chilling footage of Mohammed Merah, the extremist responsible for a string of attacks in 2012 in Toulouse, France. The documentary features video shot from a chest cam that Merah was wearing as he hunted down a French soldier and shot him.

“That was the first time you have seen the bold evilness of first person jihad,” Quested said, adding that Merah continues to be a “poster boy” for lone-wolf jihadists.

Quested also talks about why he thinks the recent U.S. airstrikes on a Syrian air base had little impact on the Assad regime’s actions.

“I think what is really going to have an impact is the arming of the SDF, which are the Kurdish militias … in the eastern parts of Syria,” he said. “I think the arming of that is going to aggravate the Turks an enormous amount. The Turks are especially sensitive to Kurdish empowerment in the region and I think that is much more significant and long lasting and potentially power balancing changing in the region.”

Listen below:

Quested also talks about interviewing Michael Flynn before he became a key figure in the Trump campaign and later served a brief tenure as national security adviser. In the movie, Flynn actually warns that the motives of ISIS are to instill terror — and that it could spill over into politics and the exploitation of issues like immigration.

Listen below:

‘Bannon’s War’

Michael Kirk, director of the new Frontline documentary “Bannon’s War,” talks of how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has influenced the White House so far — and how he’s likely to as the administration grapples with crisis.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.


More Biz

  • Superman

    DC Lays Off 3% of Staff in Structural Reorganization

    DC Comics has laid off about seven staff members — 3% of its 240 employees — as part of a structural reorganization that will result in a three-group system for the Warner Bros. division, Variety has confirmed. Those who have left the company include senior VP of sales trade marketing John Cunningham, VP of consumer marketing [...]

  • Ice Age Twentieth Century Fox World

    How a Kuala Lumpur Theme Park Became a Fox-Themed Fiasco

    Twentieth Century Fox executives looked around in 2013 and decided it was finally time for the historic studio to get into the theme park business. Fox had seen Disney and Universal expand into Japan and China, slowly conquering the globe with their resort businesses. So they came up with a bold idea to grab a [...]

  • ally billboard a star is born

    Oscar Campaign Spending Reaches New Heights in Competitive Season

    The escalating cost of awards campaigning may reach an all-time high this season as heavyweights such as “Roma” and “A Star Is Born” battle for Oscar gold. The quest for an Academy Award has always been expensive, but Netflix’s hunger to nab its first best picture win, coupled with the presence of legitimate studio contenders [...]

  • Brian Graden and Brad Grey

    'It Boy' Seeks to Drop Salacious Suit Against Brad Grey and Brian Graden

    A self-described Hollywood “It boy” has asked for permission to drop a salacious lawsuit that asserted sexual misconduct claims against the late Paramount CEO Brad Grey and former MTV executive Brian Graden. Rovier Carrington, who filed the suit last May, notified a federal court on Jan. 18 that he was withdrawing his claims. Judge Katherine [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein Hires New Lawyers Who Repped Kobe Bryant and Rose McGowan

    Harvey Weinstein has hired a new legal team to handle his rape and sexual assault case in New York, including attorneys who represented one of his most prominent accusers, actress Rose McGowan. Weinstein has hired Jose Baez and Ronald Sullivan, of the Baez Law Firm in Miami; Pamela Mackey of Denver, Colo.; and Duncan Levin, [...]

  • Bryan Singer: New Allegations of Sex

    Bryan Singer Hit With Fresh Allegations of Sex With Underage Boys

    UPDATED: Bryan Singer, the director of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” has responded to new allegations published in the Atlantic on Wednesday that he engaged in sexual misconduct with underage boys. In the report, four men allege that Singer had sexual encounters with them when they were teenagers in the late 1990s. One of the men, Victor Valdovinos, [...]

  • 'Zootopia' Land Coming to Shanghai Disneyland

    Disney to Open 'Zootopia' Land at Shanghai Theme Park

    The Shanghai Disneyland theme park is to be expanded with the construction of a themed land based on the “Zootopia” animated film and its characters. It will be the first “Zootopia” land at any Disney park worldwide. “The rapid rate of expansion at Shanghai Disney Resort demonstrates our confidence and commitment to the company’s future [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content