Documentary film follows would-be suicide bombers in Syria

LONDON (Reuters) - What do Islamist militants do while waiting to be sent on a suicide bombing mission?

Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal takes us to the insurgent front line in Syria in his new documentary, interviewing would-be suicide bombers to see what daily life is like as they wait to be sent to their death.

The film, “Dugma: The Button”, shot in late 2014 and last year, follows members of the then al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel group Nusra Front as they wait to be deployed as suicide bombers -- showing them in a restaurant, washing up dishes or chatting as gunfire rings out nearby.

The group announced last week it was cutting ties with al Qaeda and renamed itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

“I hope that it will first of all make people understand that our enemies are human beings and they are not perfect human beings,” Refsdal told Reuters in an interview.

“They are clumsy sometimes, they do mistakes, they have regrets sometimes, they have dilemmas.”

Refsdal, 52, has worked in conflict areas for more than 30 years and his last film looked at the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In “Dugma”, an Arabic word for “button” that the jidahists use to refer to their final mission, according to the film’s producers, he shows one man who left his native Saudi Arabia to join the insurgent group, watching his toddler daughter grow up from afar via video clips.

A British convert begins to question whether he can carry out a suicide bombing after getting married.

“I don’t editorialize, I don’t put voice over, I don’t try to tell people what to think about it,” Refsdal said of his film. “I am just showing the everyday situation of these al Qaeda insurgents.”

He said he hoped the movie would inspire other filmmakers to “try to go to the other side” to tell untold stories.

“Dugma: The Button” was released on iTunes on Tuesday.

Reporting by Sarah Mills; Editing by Robin Pomeroy