Category Archives: Iraqi

Dreams of Sparrows (2005)

 “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.

dreams of sparrowsDaffar 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.

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Filed under (Anti) War, Iraqi, Political/social films

Marooned in Iraq (2002)

“We can always say we’re on tour.”

The film Marooned in Iraq from director Bahman Ghobadi is set shortly after the first Gulf War. An elderly Kurdish musician named Mizra (Shahab Ebrahimi) lives in a remote village in Iran. Mizra receives a vague message for help from his ex-wife Hanareh–a woman with a beautiful voice who left Iran where “singing is forbidden for women” to take her chances in Iraq. After receiving the message, Mizra gathers up his two middle-aged sons Barat (Faegh Mohamadi) and Audeh (Allah-Morad Rashtain) and they head into Iraq. It’s an arduous, dangerous journey. They pile into Barat’s old motorbike and sidecar, and leave the relative safety of their primitive village–equipped with little more than their musical instruments. Audeh complains loudly that he doesn’t want to leave his 7 wives and 11 daughters. Barat, on the other hand, is happy to accompany his father–although he doesn’t understand why Mizra making a near-impossible journey to help a woman who ran off with his father’s best friend 23 years earlier.

On the way to Iraq, Mizra and his sons encounter hardship and adventure–including an aggressive bridegroom, camps of orphans, and marauding bandits. Mizra is famous among the Kurdish population for two things–his music and his cuckoldom. And these two things go hand in hand–the acclaim of the former soon brings on the memory of the latter. Whenever the three men stop and take out their musical instruments, crowds instantly gather. Misery and suffering take a back seat–at least temporarily–to the rare opportunity to experience the joy of music. The film does not contain a great deal of dialogue (Persian and Kurdish with English subtitles). The plot is sparse, and intense–yet the infusion of humour and hope combine to make Marooned in Iraq a superb film.
Marooned in Iraq stands as a testament to the crimes against the Kurds conducted by Saddam Hussein, and for anyone interested in how Saddam was given chemical weapons in the first place, I recommend “Spider’s Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq” by Alan Friedman.

The director is Iranian, but I’m categorizing this film under Iran, Iraq and Kurdish for obvious reasons.

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Filed under Iran, Iraqi, Kurdish, Political/social films