Ghosts of Sugar Land Review: A Brief Tale Of Radicalisation

By Daniel Hart
Published: October 15, 2019 (Last updated: December 16, 2023)
Netflix Short documentary Ghosts of Sugar Land


Saddening but insightful, Netflix short documentary Ghosts of Sugar Land provides a small window where a group of friends discuss one of their own becoming radicalised.

For its 21-minutes run-time Netflix Short documentary Ghosts of Sugar Land is as insightful as it gets. A group of American Muslim friends describe how one of them was radicalised and went to Turkey to join ISIS. The reveal is spoken, as the entire group hide behind superhero masks to protect themselves, but also others.

What’s so sad about the Netflix short film is that this is a presentation of a reconciliation. You can sense that these men are confused, hurting and at the same time, worried about their friend that has handed himself in to a terrorist organization. The way they describe their childhood with “Mark” sounds extremely normal, which became less normal as they grew up. Ghosts of Sugar Land demonstrates that anyone is at risk of radicalization, even if your immediate peers follow a religion lightly.

And I guess at the same time, that’s the beauty of Ghosts of Sugar Land — we often imagine those who join extremist forces will appear villainous and obviously evil, but as the short tale demonstrates, “Mark” was a normal kid — shy? Yes. But what group of friends does not have a shy kid? This small window into a group of adults tells us all we need to know about the power of information, and how gaining knowledge can be interpreted in different ways.

What made me most uncomfortable is how these friends did not dare reveal their identities due to the wrong path their friend took. It’s indicative of America and of how Muslims are treated that you cannot confide in a documentary crew about the fall of a good friend. The assumption that they will be associated with ISIS too is a troubling political landscape, and one Ghosts of Sugar Land ironically demonstrates.

I don’t usually rank Netflix short films, however, if I were to, I’d say Ghosts of Sugar Land is one of the best shorts this year — it’s peculiarly intimate and incredibly insightful for such a small window.

Netflix, TV Recaps