Director, subject examine forgiveness in ‘Facing Fear’

Courtesy of Jason Cohen Productions

The path to forgiveness can be one of emotional and physical turmoil. Not many could have explored it as well as Jason Cohen in his directorial debut, the Oscar-nominated documentary short “Facing Fear.”

Cohen’s project recounts the true story of a hate crime involving Tim Zaal and Matthew Boger, the attacker and his victim, respectively. The two experienced the traumatic moment from opposite perspectives. When fate reunites them 25 years later, they begin a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation that constantly causes them to reconsider their own beliefs.

Tracing the terrifying accounts of that single moment, Cohen dives into the personal backgrounds of Boger and Zaal, beginning with their upbringing and leading up to an inconceivable, heartwarming friendship.

In an exclusive interview with WSN, Cohen and Boger spoke about the production and impact of “Facing Fear.”

“We knew we were making a film about forgiveness and we wanted it to open up a discussion,” Cohen said.

Boger agreed that the film is meant to spark a dialogue.

“The conversation is the point because if you have people talking, they digest the information and it stays long after the presentation,” Boger said.

“Facing Fear” shows audiences a personal experience that exemplifies the willingness to forgive. Cohen was inspired by this universal theme to pursue the film.

“Everyone thinks about forgiveness, but I don’t know if they really examine forgiveness,” Cohen said. “We all have issues in our lives and we get in disputes and we forgive the other person, but I don’t know if we all actually sit down and analyze what that means. We wanted to show that forgiveness is not cut-and-dried.”

Cohen said the strongest scene in “Facing Fear” is one after the retelling of the attack.

“Matt has a line followed by Tim just talking about what they were both feeling in that moment and I think it’s pretty raw what they were both expressing,” Cohen said. “Matt talks about being more hurt by the words than the actual attack.”

Cohen said young and upcoming filmmakers should utilize the Internet and social media to promote their work.

“Today you can get it up on the web, use your social media to drive people to it,” Cohen said. “If you can touch a nerve and start something viral, then you’re on your way.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 25 print edition. Mohamed Hassan is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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