The world got its first look at the suspects three days after the
April 15 attack, when the FBI released surveillance photos showing
two men identified only by their baseball caps as "black hat" and
The 12-minute film "Jahar" tells a fictional story of how three
friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reacted when they realized he was the
man in the white hat. It was written by two high-school classmates
of Tsarnaev, who was convicted last year of carrying out the attacks
and sentenced to death.
Debuting next week at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, the film
shows three teenagers trying to understand how the friend they knew
by the nickname "Jahar" could have been involved in an attack that
wounded more than 260 people, more than a dozen of whom lost legs.
The film, written by Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Henry Hayes, cuts
between the friends' memories of hanging out with Tsarnaev, smoking
marijuana and laughing, and struggles to accept his role in the
"That's our boy, and just because his picture's up doesn't mean he
did shit," one of the friends declares as they argue about news
reports linking Tsarnaev to the bombing. "You knew him. When did
this man ever talk about politics or bombs or ... terrorism or
At his sentencing in June, Tsarnaev admitted to carrying out the
bombing with his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan, who died four days
later following a gunfight with police. The younger Tsarnaev, now
22, left a note describing the attack as an act of revenge for U.S.
military campaigns in countries that are mostly Muslim.
"Jahar" has a very different focus from that of the forthcoming
"Patriots Day." That film, about then-Boston Police Commissioner Ed
Davis and the hunt for the bombers, stars Mark Wahlberg and is due
out in December.
"The pain that we're trying to talk about and the pain that we're
trying to convey obviously doesn't relate to that of the actual
victims of the marathon bombings, the people who were at the finish
line, but it's pain nonetheless," said Kanno-Youngs.
"There's no one way to react to something as bizarre as this."
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Some of the teens depicted in the film are angry, but one of them is
reluctant to believe Tsarnaev is guilty, clinging to a memory of a
young man who talked a police officer into allowing him to drive
eight inebriated friends home from a suburban party in an overloaded
This screen conflict mirrors history. Former classmates of Tsarnaev
appeared in court following his April 19, 2013, arrest, voicing
support and denying his guilt. By the end of his trial, his most
visible supporters were a handful of anti-death-penalty protesters,
who say the sentence he awaits at a maximum security prison in
Florence, Colorado, is unjust.
Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, and his family came to the United
States a decade before the attacks, settling just outside Boston in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents failed to thrive and
eventually returned to Russia, but Dzhokhar remained, living with
his brother and becoming a high-school wrestling star.
Hayes, who also directed the film, said he hoped it would prompt
people to analyze what set Tsarnaev on the path to violence.
"It's important that we not close ourselves off from these questions
because things like this keep happening," Hayes said. "If we're not
thinking about why - why do things like this happen - we're doing
ourselves a disservice, a potentially fatal disservice."
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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