Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

Isa Abdullah Ali
Mark Claywell
Jody Jenkins
72 Mins
Breaking Glass Pictures
Interview w/Mark Claywell and Jody Jenkins; Isa Ali Home Movies; "Terrorist vs. Freedom Fighter"; Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadl-Allah Interview

 "American Jihadist" Review 
Add to favorites
There's at least a decent chance that if you're a fairly typical, middle-of-the-road patriotic American that Isa Abdullah Ali is going to make you, at the very least, uncomfortable.


Maybe. Maybe not.

Born Clevin Raphael Holt in the D.C. projects, Ali became rough and tumble at an early age before Uncle Sam taught him how to fight and triggered something inside him that became nurtured and fueled by the kind of Islam that likely scares Americans the most. Before long, Holt had become Isa Abdullah Ali and Isa Abdullah Ali had become, rather obviously, an American jihadist willing to take up arms relentlessly in defense of Islam and his brothers.

From the 1980's when the Lebanese fought against Israeli to the Iranian conflict against Russia and numerous other conflicts, Ali has taken up arms, a fact confirmed throughout the film by director Mark Claywell in interviews with quite a few of his fellow soldiers. Claywell does a rather extraordinary job of capturing both sides of Ali, a man who would love to live at peace but a man who finds himself constantly fighting off a world that fights against Islam.

Despite being a known terrorist with over 170 acknowledged "kills," Ali has never been charged with a crime, though the U.S. has stated that he'll be arrested should he arrive on American soil the simple truth is that Ali HAS arrived on U.S. soil before and was released.

Ali and his family currently reside in Bosnia, seemingly at peace with themselves and the lives that they lead. Ali is a spirited, intense and relentless physical presence and his openness and authenticity are what drives this captivating and unforgettable 72-minute doc.

American Jihadist won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival, and has just recently completed its nationwide festival run before being picked up by Breaking Glass Pictures for a DVD release. For more information on American Jihadist, visit the film's website. You can also learn more by visiting Breaking Glass Pictures.

While it's subject matter may sound challenging and, indeed, the film itself is anything but light entertainment, American Jihadist may very well be one of the few "must see" docs of the past year with its honest, balanced and informed portrayal of Ali and its objective approach to exploring his life. You may not agree with everything that Ali stands for, but his life journey will leave you breathless.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic