New Susan Sarandon Film Criticized by Mother of Slain Journalist in Syria

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New Susan Sarandon Film Criticized by Mother of Slain Journalist in Syria

Diane Foley had to see it with her own eyes, so she did, traveling from New Hampshire to Toronto to catch a screening of a new film, Viper Club, at the Toronto Film Festival on Tuesday.

After watching the film, which stars Susan Sarandon, Foley was more convinced than ever that her life story was taken without her advance knowledge, consent or participation and made into a motion picture, scheduled to hit theaters in late October. She calls the screening a “very upsetting experience.”

Foley is a nurse and Sarandon’s character, “Helen,” is a nurse. Her son, James Foley, was a freelance journalist who was abducted while reporting in Syria in 2012 and whose brutal killing by the Islamic State was taped and broadcast around the world in August 2014.

In Viper Club, Helen’s son, “Andy” (Julian Morris) is a freelance journalist who is abducted by the Islamic State while reporting in Syria and meets the same fate as James.

Foley says even some of the film’s dialogue matches things she and her husband, John, have said.

“She even physically resembles me,” Foley says of Sarandon. “What was appalling is that it was my story, almost to the tiniest detail.”

Foley acknowledges there were some discrepancies and “embellishments” to her story, small differences between her and Helen.

Among them: Foley is deeply religious, but the character is areligious; the character smokes and swears but she doesn’t; the character is a single mother and she’s married; and, while both are nurses, the character is an ER nurse while she’s a nurse practitioner.

Maryam Keshavarz, the film’s director, expressed her admiration and support for Foley and suggested that her son’s story was among the inspirations for the film but not the only one.

“We did a lot of research, read over 100 articles, saw a dozen documentaries, and [tried to] find a way to be very truthful to what these families went through … but have the freedom to weave in different themes that I was trying to examine,” she said, mentioning also the families of Daniel Pearl and Steven Sotloff, two other American journalists who were kidnapped and killed by terrorists.