Following the 9/11 attack, a man in Texas decided to kill Arabs and Muslims in his community. This man, Mark Stroman, sits on death row when the viewer meets him. Through interviews with him and others, correspondence, and archive videos and images, the viewer gets to know who Stroman is, why he did what he did, and how he came to be forgiven by the victims of his crimes. Israeli director Ilan Ziv starts his documentary with footage of 9/11 showing the attacks from multiple angles, something that will hit many hard as they watch. Fifteen years later, it is still hard footage to watch for anyone who remembers the day and the events. Those images set what comes next. This being when Stroman decides that he cannot take this attack, and wants revenge. He then writes a manifesto and goes looking for Muslims to kill.
With more footage from a surveillance camera, the viewer gets to see one of his crimes, on video, as he shoots a man in a convenience store. This footage is difficult to watch as well but it is necessary to understand the seriousness of Stroman’s crimes. Following this footage, there are interviews and letters are read aloud create the rest of the documentary. Ziv met up with Stroman many times to get to know him and these interviews are raw and emotional. We get to see the realness of the situation. Then his surviving victim Rais Bhuiyan comes into play as he forgives him and goes on a crusade to save him from the death penalty. This documentary is very timely as the war on terror and racial discord are on the new and in the political sphere constantly during this election year. The rhetoric of some politicians would want everyone to go and want to close our minds and hearts to other religions that some may view as dangerous as a whole.
This film makes a good argument against that by showing those affected by this xenophobic view forgiving their attackers and even wanting them to live breaking the circle of vengeance. “An Eye for an Eye” does this by making the viewers feel with the people affected by this situation, and showing how this all hurts people on every side of the things. The documentary is shot in a way to not hide any other ugliness of what happened, of how things were handled, and of the hate some feel for entire populations. This connects with the viewer on a raw level while still giving facts and being shot in a straight forward way. The film does not try to convince people of any one view point, it just shows. Of course, the filmmaker is involved with the subject after being in contact for so long and he does remove himself a bit which gives the film more objectivity. This objectivity is not complete of course as it almost never truly is with documentaries as every filmmaker has a bit of involvement at minimum.
What is different with this documentary is that they let the victims’ families and the survivor talk and discuss what they want done and not done. They have friends of the killer, people who want him alive as well as people who want him dead. This documentary shows multiple angles while making its point loud and clear. “An Eye for an Eye” is a hard documentary to watch in parts due to some of the subject matter and some of the footage used, but it’s one a lot of people should watch and could learn a thing or two from. Of course, not many people want to face truths like these, but this documentary is important in how it shows people affected by acts of violence, terrorism, and vengeance. It’s a rough watch, but an important one.