“Baghdad is hell.”
The documentary The Dreams of Sparrows is the first film from Iraqi filmmaker Hayder Mousa Daffar. Daffar states, “I wanted to show the world what life was like in Iraq.” Those fortunate enough to stumble across this film certainly gain at least a brief, painful glimpse of daily life in Iraq.
Daffar and his associates interview a number of Iraqis and travel to several locations. Most of those interviewed are optimistic about Saddam’s removal from power–although a few interviewed Iraqis start swearing when they hear the name ‘George Bush’. But as the film wears on, months go by, and optimism changes to despair as the daily conditions worsen. Those standing in long lines for petrol are interviewed, and the mood isn’t pretty. We see glimpses of life in a private girls’ school in Baghdad, a temporary shelter for the homeless, a Sadr City insane asylum, and a Palestinian refugee camp. Palestinian refugees were welcomed by Saddam, but were turfed out of their homes after the U.S. invasion. When the film was made in 2003, these Palestinian refugees had spent 8 pitiful months in tents. One man asks, “Where is the democracy and the freedom?”
Members of the General Union of Writers in Iraq present their philosophical interpretations of the current situation, and one man explains the insurgency as an inevitable consequence, “When you provoke a people against their leader, you will start a revolution.” There are even a few shots of U.S. troops. Some are protecting a petrol station–others are seen storming a home, and still others are seen chatting with Iraqi children.
The Dreams of Sparrows has its amateurish moments, but overall it’s a fascinating glimpse at a tragic situation. The film begins with a cheesy reenactment (just like those appalling history reenactments), and while it’s understood what the filmmaker is trying to say–the film would have been a lot better without the reenactment. A word of warning–there are a few graphic scenes involving humans and animals. The film takes us to the site of mass graves in Fallujah, and dead and starving animals are a common occurrence in the film. In English and Arabic.