The State, C4
YOU had to hang fire when judging The State, Peter Kosminsky’s inevitably controversial look at the experiences of a quartet of young Britons volunteering as jihadis for Daesh.
The reaction when episode one aired on Sunday was knee-jerk: what could Kosminsky be thinking, painting a portrait of young idealists signing up for what they sincerely believed to be a great cause?
The broadcast could and perhaps should have been held back a week in response to the terror attacks in and around Barcelona.
Viewers who stuck with The State through the four episodes, however, were led to a searing conclusion about as far from romanticising the appeal of Daesh — one of the charges laid at Kosminsky’s door — as it was possible to get.
By the end of episode four last night, youthful idealism lay in tatters as grim reality bit. For Jalal (Sam Otto), dreams of following in his supposedly martyred brother’s footsteps disappeared in a heartbreaking mix of brutality and bitter disillusion.
Fiercely independent doctor Shakira (Ony Uhiara) ended up feeling trapped after being marginalised because of her gender, with her young son turning against her as he became radicalised.
It made for gripping and at times difficult viewing, violence depicted in unflinching fashion. But it gave a human face to the kinds of young people, alienated from their Western lives, who were drawn to Daesh.
Easily demonised and dismissed as crazed extremists, many of the British and European recruits were a far cry from that lazy profile.
There was one drawback: the lack of backstory. Kosminsky’s avowed intent was to portray what happened to the Britons in Syria, not what drove them there. But to my mind the motives of the recruits, how they became hooked on the cause, were a vital missing piece of the jigsaw.
Their stories were drip-fed into the action but needed flesh on the bones.
It was a flaw, but not a fatal one. The State was an intelligent and brave attempt to tackle an issue we ignore at our peril. Kosminsky deserves credit for popping his head above a parapet few film-makers would dare scale.
It was a story that needed to be told: if we kid ourselves the world is one big Love Island, we’re burying our heads in the sand.