Jake Gyllenhaal To Play American Anarchist ISIS Fighter, Real-Life Inspiration Livid

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Jake Gyllenhaal may return to the Middle East, this time to play an American anarchist who doesn't look all that much like @PIssPigGranddad. Universal Pictures

Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac, Nightcrawler, Donnie Darko) and director Daniel Espinosa (Life) plan to adapt a Rolling Stone article about American anarchists joining up with a Kurdish militia to fight ISIS and participate in their left-wing political vision. This came as a surprise to Brace Belden (more often known by his Twitter handle @PissPigGranddad), the primary subject of “The Anarchists vs. ISIS RS article and likely basis for the main character Gyllenhaal will presumably play.

 

Belden is tweeting from Syria, where the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed forces of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, are currently part of an immense operation to drive ISIL out of the city of Raqqa, the jihadist organization’s headquarters since 2014. The YPG’s eventual goal is to establish an anarchist, collectivist, “stateless democracy” in the region. The Rolling Stone article describes their politics as “the same kind of secular, feminist, anarcho-libertarianism as Noam Chomsky or the activists of Occupy Wall Street.”

It’s a confusing mishmash of socialist, communist, anarchist and libertarian ideals, particularly in comparison to the narrow Overton window of mainstream American politics. So PissPigGranddad’s description of life in Rojava (the autonomous region carved out by the YPG in Northern Syria) in a February podcast interview offers a more visceral perspective.

“The PYD, our civilian wing, it’s socialist, so they cover a lot of food, they cover fuel for people, they help people with their housing,” Belden said.

While certain segments of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) focus on socializing civilian programs, the political and military wings of the party act more as an experiment in a totalizing anarcho-socialist ideology.

“The party life is really, really ascetic. They don’t have any personal property whatsoever. In fact, if I ever looked at my phone or anything like that they’d be like ‘Capitalist, put that away!’ Everything’s communal. There’s commanders and stuff, but they have to do the same shit we do. It’s a bit jarring, honestly, but their whole mentality behind it is like ‘you can’t build a socialist society without living a socialist life,’ so everything is shared.” Belden told Chapo Trap House. “We take turns cooking, including the commanders, everybody takes turns doing watch. It’s pretty fucking egalitarian, even though we have nothing and people don’t have any personal property, except for books.”

“Pretty much you just sit around and talk and work on things and help each other do shit. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s wild,” Belden said. “It’s really different. Really different from the West. In a lot of good ways and in some ways that are kind of confusing.”

“It’s pretty much illegal to jack off here,” he offered as an example. “So let me just say I’m the biggest criminal in this country.” Gyllenhaal’s lines write themselves.

Considering Belden, immersed in the YPG’s leftist experiment, struggles to explain just how different life is in Rojava from America, it’s easy to see why he’d be skeptical of a movie grasping the complexity of what’s happening in Syria. He objected in particular to producer Riva Marker’s description of the upcoming movie, which omits any mention of politics, offering instead pablum about “the search for identity, especially in a world where it’s become easier to feel less and less connected.”

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Marker described the original article “The Anarchists vs. ISIS” as “about people who abandon everything that’s familiar as a means to connect in the most brutal of circumstances.” If Marker’s words are any indication, the absence of politics may prove the most political aspect of Gyllenhaal’s adaptation — even anti-capitalist revolution can be assimilated.

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