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HBO's 'Jim' tells the backstory of murdered journalist James Foley

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Brian Oakes makes his directorial debut with "Jim: The James Foley Story," a documentary that explores the intersection of terrorism and conflict journalism through the life of his childhood friend.

Brian Oakes makes his directorial debut with "Jim: The James Foley Story," a documentary that explores the intersection of terrorism and conflict journalism through the life of James Foley. The film received the Audience Award for a U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and it will premiere on HBO this month.

The Islamic State group released a video in August, 2014 of Foley's beheading. In the video, Foley is shown kneeling in the desert with his head shaved and wearing an orange jumpsuit. His captor stands over him clad all in black with his face covered. The captor's strong British accent suggested that he was recruited from the U.K. ​

Foley had been a war correspondent stationed in Syria to cover the country's civil war when he was captured in November, 2012. Before his murder, he was forced to read a statement blaming U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East for his death.

The graphic video's release ramped up Western attention to the crisis in the Middle East and the development of the militant Islamic group, especially its ability to recruit internationally. 

In making his documentary, Brian Oakes wanted to repurpose the images of his childhood schoolmate's last moments. To Oakes and the journalists that Foley worked with, James was "Jim" — a friend who was passionate about his work. The film reveals who Foley was before that fateful day, and tracks how he ended up there. 

Jim Foley and Brian Oakes (1992)
Jim Foley and Brian Oakes (1992)

The Frame's John Horn met with director Brian Oakes at the Sundance Film Festival to talk about the film and how Oakes remembered Foley.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

The other side being the victims of war, the people who are suffering at the hands of the war or an oppressive government?
Jim in the Karm Jebel neighborhood of Aleppo, that was being heavily fought over. November 5, 2012.
Nicole Tung (Photo Courtesy HBO)
Jim in the Karm Jebel neighborhood of Aleppo, that was being heavily fought over. November 5, 2012.
Early on in the film, one of Jim's brothers asks the question, "Why?" It's a question that kind of echoes throughout the film. Why was he in Syria? Why was he chosen to be assassinated by ISIS? As you're making the movie, was [answering those questions] part of the motivation on your part, or were you trying to figure out more about who Jim was beyond what you knew? 
And we should point out, he went back to the Middle East after he had already been kidnapped in Libya. And he went back to Syria, which was even a more dangerous place.
Was the question answered for you, why he did it? Why he wanted to be there?
And was part of your motivation in making the film to answer that question, and was it also partly to figure out how to process the loss of your good friend? Were those two things joined in some ways, in the making of the film?
Jim Foley (Photo Courtesy HBO)
Simon Klingert (Photo Courtesy HBO)
Jim Foley (Photo Courtesy HBO)
Towards the end of the film there's a clip where one of Jim's brothers reads a letter that Jim wanted to send out from captivity. What's the importance of the letter in terms of what Jim was thinking about and what his concerns were in the last days of his life? 
In which he denounces the country, essentially.
You say at the start of the film that there are going to be images of conflict in the film, but you will not show Jim's execution. I guess as a film watcher, you kind of know that you're not going to see this horrible thing. But I suspect that's not entirely what you were trying to do, to shield the audience. There's a bigger idea behind not showing that. 
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