A film by Alba Sotorra Clua
2021, 90 minutes
No. 358

The Return: Life After ISIS is a feature documentary that paints an intimate yet candid portrait of a group of Western women who devoted their young lives to ISIS, but who now want to be given the chance to rebuild their lives back at home. Generally reviled by a hostile media around the world, these women have granted unique access to director Alba Sotorrain an attempt to have their voices heard.

Shamima Begum (UK) and Hoda Muthana (US) made worldwide headlines when they left their countries as teenagers to join ISIS. Now, after the fall of ISIS, they are among hundreds of Western women and children being held in detention camps in northern Syria, unable to return home. None of their countries of origin want them back and in some cases, like Shamima’s, they have been stripped of the citizenship—a ruling her lawyers are challenging.

While the world sees the women as a threat, Sevinaz, a local Kurdish woman who is among the team overseeing the camps, is more forgiving. She runs a writing workshop in the camp,which gives Shamima and Hoda the chance to share their stories. Over time, the women grow in confidence and open up about their personal journeys: why they were attracted to ISIS in the first place, the traumas they faced while living under the ISIS regime, and their fears and hopes for the future.

Official Selection, SXSW
Official Selection, Hot Docs
Official Selection, Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Official Selection, Sheffield Doc Fest

“An extraordinary humanitarian achievement.” - Cine Addiction

“Stirring, sobering, and vitally humane.” - Variety

 “Remarkable access. Incredible achievement.” - Screen Daily

 “A sharp sense of structure and the largest of hearts. Timely, immersive, and deeply poignant.” - Film Threat

“I was astounded by The Return. I was astonished by its access, astonished by its empathy and astonished by its existence… simply a superb piece of filmmaking” - Film Inquiry