If there’s a lesson to be learned from David Schisgall’s fitfully interesting documentary Theo Who Lived, it’s to maybe not sneak into Syria to cover the civil war for a $500 New Republic article. Freelance journalist Theo Pasdos, fluent in Arabic and well-versed in Islamic culture, recounts how his plan to do just that was waylaid when he was almost immediately captured by Al-Qaeda and held prisoner for two years. Theo returns to many of the places where it happened, recreating the torture and other horrors he endured. He’s also remarkably open about his regrets about getting himself into that situation, and his overall station in life. His self-deprecation about writing for The New Republic rather than The New Yorker reaches a level usually associated with film critics for disreputable alt-weeklies. Presumably because the film is called Theo Who Lived and not Theo and Matt Both Lived but Disagree on the Details, a thread that doesn’t get properly explored is Theo’s fractious relationship with photojournalist Matt Schrier. He was Theo’s cell-mate for a brief period but escaped long before him, and whether Matt abandoned Theo remains a matter of contention. But that’s not what the movie’s about, and the less said about Theo’s last-minute attempt to tie the film thematically to the Eagles’ “Desperado,” the better.
Theo Who Lived
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.