Former Royal Marine turned documentary maker, Emile Ghessen, spoke to Hatch and Geere about his film documenting the plight of international volunteers fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
After leaving the Royal Marines in 2012, Emile swapped his rifle for a camera and has spent the last three years following 10 volunteers. The combination of Emile’s family being Syrian and having attended the same school as ‘Jihadi John’ gave him the inspiration to make his first documentary.
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Emile found that many volunteers were not ex-forces and had never picked up a weapon, and for the ex-forces volunteers, many hadn’t served in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and felt that they had something to prove.
“They all tell me that they’re motivated by ISIS killing people and they’re going to make a difference.
"But really, when you look at the root of it all, they’re motivated by their own self-gain.
"They want to prove something to themselves.”
Emile told Hatch and Geere that he often found himself under fire during the filming process, armed with just standard body armour and a helmet, purposely choosing not to carry a weapon. However, for the volunteers, it is their responsibility to purchase their own equipment, and often, their own weapons.
“They’ll turn up, they’ll go with the Peshmerga or the YPG to the local market, they’ll buy their boots, they’ll buy their uniform, they’ll go to the shops that sell weapons and buy their weapons.”
Emile, who is now a student at the Forces Media Academy, made six trips in total to gather the footage for the documentary, always travelling on his own.
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When asked how the British government views the volunteers fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Emile said that some of the volunteers have been arrested under the Terrorism Act when they return, but the charges have always been dropped.
The Counter Terrorism Unit also showed interest in Emile after his first trip to Iraq before understanding the purpose of his travelling.
“It’s been a long journey. It’s been quite emotional.”
Emile has already starting to think of ideas for his second documentary, one of which would be to meet with the Taliban to talk about the war in Afghanistan.
"But when I turn up and say I'm an ex-Marine, 'Hi, I was shooting at you a few years ago, can we have a little chat?'
"They might not be too impressed."
‘Robin Hood Complex’ is available to rent or purchase here > https://vimeo.com/ondemand/robinhoodcomplex
Picture: Emile Ghessen