“I wasn’t raised as an extremist but I was hungry for power,” Tania Joya admits in the trailer for “A Radical Life,” the latest from “Reversing Roe” filmmaker Ricki Stern. “A Radical Life” takes us inside Joya’s former life as the First Lady of ISIS. She was married for 12 years to John Georgelas, the highest-ranking American in the Islamic State. Now an advocate for counter-extremism, Joya recounts her fraught relationship with Georgelas, from how they met online to the decade they shared as a jihadist family with the ambition to “take over each continent,” as she describes over home video footage of her son reading the words “deadliest warrior.”
“Tania’s powerful story underscores how feelings of marginalization and disenfranchisement can drive people to violence and extremism,” Stern reflected in a statement. “I hope Tania’s journey into and out of extremism – and her commitment to combat it – emphasizes the need for more education and conversation about the forces that radicalize people of all backgrounds and beliefs around the world.”
When Joya met Georgelas at just 19 years of age, he offered a possible reprieve from the racism she was subjected to on a daily basis living in the U.K. “I saw him as my ticket out,” she recalls in the trailer. When Georgelas relocates the family to Syria amid the civil war, “Joya begins to question everything she believes and must choose between her marriage and her children’s future,” the film’s synopsis teases.
Stern’s recent projects include doc “My So-Called High School Life,” which she co-directed with long-time collaborator Anne Sundberg. Released last month, the doc follows teen students from radically different walks of life as they rehearse for a musical. Stern and Sundberg took home the Audience Award at the 2015 Nashville Film Festival for “In My Father’s House,” their doc about Che “Rhymefest” Smith’s reconciliation with his long-lost father.
“A Radical Life” will premiere at 2022 Hamptons International Film Festival, which runs from October 7-16. It will be available for streaming October 13 on discovery+.