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Recycle
A Film by Mahmoud al Massad
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film stillZarqa, Jordan's second largest city, is an industrial center with more than one million residents. At a time of America's ongoing "Global War on Terrorism," the everyday conversations of its citizens revolve around not only the local economy or the lack of freedom of expression, but also on the need for pan-Arab unity, the rise of political Islam, and whether or not a faithful Muslim has a religious duty to engage in jihad.

The latter debates are particularly topical since Zarqa is also the birthplace of Ahmad Fadeel, better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the notorious leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in a U.S. bombing in June 2006. Many in the city knew Zarqawi, his relatives still live there, and it remains a source of new recruits for the global jihad.

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RECYCLE is a portrait of the city as seen through the eyes of Abu Ammar, a forty-something Jordanian who served as a mujahid during the Afghan-Soviet War, and the former owner of a failed grocery store who now struggles to support his two wives and eight children by collecting discarded cardboard for sale to a recycling plant. A deeply religious man, he has also collected thousands of scraps of paper with Islamic sayings that he intends to use in a book on jihad, as soon as he can find a publisher.

The film joins Abu Ammar on his daily work routine, in intimate family settings at home, at prayer, and after his arrest and four-month imprisonment on suspicion of involvement in the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. His periodic, wide-ranging conversations with friends and neighbors include the inadvisability for Muslims of working or living in "infidel" countries, the 9/11 attacks in America, the rise of extremist violence, and the role of Muslim theologians.

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Reminiscences of Zarqawi are also related, with all agreeing that he was a very unremarkable man, uneducated, apolitical and not religious at all-indeed, his main concerns seemed to be pills, alcohol and women-but who suddenly became religious and surfaced as "the Prince of Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Filmed over a period of two and a half years by a filmmaker who himself hails from Zarqa, RECYCLE, in its patient and gradual accretion of biographical and social details, portrays a man torn between his religious beliefs and ever-pressing economic problems and one who, as his situation deteriorates into bankruptcy, must make a difficult decision. In exposing this all-too-common environment of poverty, political humiliation, and Islamic fundamentalism, RECYCLE reveals the social environment that spawns both terrorists and economic emigrants.

"Outstanding... a beautifully shot, unpredictable and humane film."—Leo Bankersen, International Film Guide 2009

"An intimate and touching portrait of a man struggling to reconcile his own conflicting ideals and aspirations in a harsh existence defined by poverty, authoritarianism and regional conflict… [Abu Ammar] is an idiosyncratic figure who does not fit into any of the popular stereotypes or academic models of the radical Islamist. This distinguishes RECYCLE from the reconstructed or fictional accounts of radicalization found in films such as Paradise Now or The War Within, and it adds a caveat to the hard-charging academic discourse on the roots of militancy. RECYCLE shows us radicalism in all its frustrating ambiguity."-Thomas Hegghammer, The National

"One of those subtle, taciturn, underplayed documentaries that forces its audience to work at teasing out meanings. It's Errol Morris, in other words, rather than Michael Moore."—Screen International

"A resonant tale about broken dreams and Middle Eastern poverty."—Variety

World Cinema Cinematography Award, 2008 Sundance Film Festival
2008 Dubai International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2008 Rotterdam International Film Festival
2008 Munich International Documentary Festival
2008 San Francisco International Film Festival

77 minutes / Color
Arabic / English subtitles
Release: 2008
Copyright: 2007

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Economic Sociology, Islam, Jordan, Middle East, Religion, Sociology

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