In our world there is an apparent disconnect towards religious radicals being an actual representation of their religion; mainly terrorists through Islam. There are numerous groups that pervert the teachings of Islam and twist it to fit their narrative. In the last two decades there has been a push in trying to clarify how these extremists are in no way truly affiliated with this religion. In a quest to discover what leads someone to become radicalized as well as shed some light on the life of a refugee freelance journalist and filmmaker Jack Baxter (Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcom X) takes this journey in his film The Last Sermon.
This journey is also a personal one for Jack, who was a victim of the 2003 Tel Aviv suicide bombing at a bar named Mike’s Place. On top of already suffering lifelong disabilities due to the attack. Jack also has pieces of the bomber himself embedded in his body through the shrapnel. Over 15 years later Jack wants to travel back and talk to the family members of the bombers to gain some clarity to help his understanding of such atrocious actions that have only grown in recent years. During his travels he visits multiple refugee areas located in the Middle East; autonomous zones where civilians claim no land or area for themselves. The light shed on these families trying to live each day is the one part of Baxter’s film that I wish was expanded upon more. It is the world’s disconnect of who these people really are and the label put on them simply because of their religion that does no one any good. The only dream they have is to live free without persecution. In his one good deed throughout the film, Baxter takes it upon himself to arrange a donation of harmonicas for the children in of these refugee zones. The emotion stirred up by these young children simply having a musical instrument was pure joy.
Unfortunately for Jack and his film there was more on the agenda. Playing out of something similar to a Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood film Jack is on “the hunt” to get his answers; there is even a similarity by an interviewee to Jack and the latter. His “mission” does not really make sense itself, a point also made by one of Jack’s acquaintances early on before his travels and that it does nothing for no one. Jack even states he does not know what he’ll get out of this but he feel he has to. In his attempts to try and distinct fanatics apart from religious people he says ridiculous things such as “kill em’ or convert em’” or screaming “murderers!” at someone over a disagreement. While in London Jack visits Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park and upon his shouting of The Last Sermon by the Prophet Muhammad, in what should be a powerful moment was just really Jack shouting on a ladder alongside other religious zealots. His “go get em’” bravado does not suit the type of delicacy this subject matter deserves and for that it just hurts his cause.
2 out of 5
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