Almost nightly we seem to be assaulted by news stories of car bombings
or similar acts in Iraq in which numerous people, including American troops,
are killed. Some of these attacks are by so-called "suicide" bombers.
Have you ever wondered how that term has come into vogue? Well, Robert
Baer, the former CIA agent whose book
SEE NO EVIL served as one of the
inspirations for the complicated and complex film
SYRIANA, has decided to
answer just that question in the documentary

      Originally made for British television (on which it aired in August 2005),
THE CULT OF THE SUICIDE BOMBER makes a rather intriguing companion
piece to the Oscar-nominated foreign film
PARADISE NOW, a film which
featured a pair of would-be terrorists. This film, co-directed by David Batty
and Kevin Toolis, eschews historical examples (such as Japanese kamakazi
pilots) and instead focuses on the more recent use of individuals who blow
themselves up for political and/or religious beliefs.

      Baer clearly knows his stuff and his years working in the Middle East
have allowed him to cultivate some good contacts. He is able to gain access
to people and places that few others would be allowed. For instance, Baer
interviews members of the families of Hossein Fahmideh, a 13-year old
Iranian soldier considered by historians as the first contemporary individual
to become a "suicide" bomber, and Yahya Ayyash, a Palestinian who
introduced the ideology to Israel and who personally planned and oversaw
numerous attacks.

      Obviously because of Baer's background in the Middle East,
skews heavily toward the Middle East. There are
passing mentions of the "black widows" of Chechnya, for example. It's a
minor flaw in a film that does serve as a good starting point to learn about
the mindset behind one of the late 20th Century's and early 21st Century's
ongoing issues. Near the end of the film, Baer points out that in some
cases the ideas driving some bombers are no longer tied to a particular
religion. That makes this "cult" clearly something to focus on.

Rating:             B-
Running time:   95 mins.                                    

                                Viewed on DVD
The Cult of the Suicide Bomber
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.