THEO WHO LIVED is a story of the remarkable empathy its subject, American journalist Theo Padnos, found for the captors who tortured him after being kidnapped in Syria in 2012. David Schisgall’s sensitive, heart-wrenching documentary about Theo, like Theo himself, finds the humanity in everyone. Preferring to see people as individuals rather than stereotypes, it’s a film that challenges us to rise to that level without, and this is key, ignoring the crimes that were committed against Theo, or mitigating the psychological damage that was inflicted. Schisgall’s previous work includes OPERATION FILMMAKER.
When I spoke to Schisgall on December 16, 2016, my first question involved the serendipitous way that he met Theo soon after his release. From there we discussed the therapeutic value of having Theo relive so many of the traumas of his captivity, returning to the scene of his kidnapping, and learning to see the world through different eyes.