In Arabic & Kurdish with English Subtitles.
Director: Mohamed Al-Daradji
Cast: Yasser Talib, Shazada Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Lighthouse Pictures
Opening Day: 4 November 2010
In 2003, three weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Ahmed, an energetic 12-year-old Kurdish boy, travels with his grandmother along the dustiest, most secluded roads in northern Iraq. In search of their father/son, a soldier missing since the Gulf War, they head south to Babylon. Along their bumpy way, they encounter the chaotic state of the country but find unexpected allies on similar quests, including one former member of the Republican Guard. Though Ahmed may be too young to understand fully the importance of this journey, his life will be changed forever.
There are major events in world history which the world would rather forget. These incidents revive painful memories which cause psychological hurt and heartache. But these events also serve as important lessons in the worldly scheme of things. One such history lesson is the reign of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. While we may not be the most knowledgeable people to tell you the exact terrors which happened during the infamous Gulf War, we are urging you to watch this emotionally engaging piece of work from Iraq, simply because you, our readers, are fellow human beings like us.
And we believe that human beings have the ability to feel human emotions, hence our existence. One avenue to experience real human emotions are well made films like this.
The story is heartbreakingly simple: We follow a headstrong young boy and his persistent grandmother on their journey across Northern Iraq as they search for the boy’s father, a solider who has gone missing since the Gulf War. This happens after the fall of Saddam Hussein, when people are trying to pick up fallen pieces and return to normality. Here we have two hopeful souls, a boy in search of his father and a mother in search of her son – how will their road trip end?
Director Mohamed Al-Daradji handles a politically throbbing topic in this award winning film which deserves an important place in the history of international cinema. The young filmmaker approaches this piece of history with extreme sensitivity, compassion and mostly importantly, empathy, as he tells this realistic tale through the camera lens. While it would have been convenient to exploit and milk emotional sympathy (read: Hollywood), the filmmakers took care not to demean the power of cinema by thoughtfully illustrating what the reality is like for the people who suffered the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s time in power.
The film’s two protagonists are played by Yasser Talib and Shazda Hussein, who deliver calmingly powerful performances that will touch the most contemptuous viewer. Talib’s idealistic adamancy comes from his boyish vivacious personality, while Hussein’s buoyant stubbornness is coupled with an exasperating grief which aptly complements her co-actor’s performance. Your attention will be with the grandmother grandson duo throughout the film’s 90 minute runtime, as they uncover the reality which ultimately spells tragedy. A supporting character in the form of a former Republican Guard (played energetically by Bashir Al-Majid) completes this capable ensemble.
Richly filled with important political messages of peace and strong representations of symbolic imageries, it is evident that this production is one made with care and deliberation. It is no wonder the film has received critical acclaim at international film festivals, with the 60th Berlinale International Film Festival awarding it with the Amnesty International Film Prize and Peace Film Award, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival giving it a special mention earlier this year. As Iraq’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film, we are keeping our fingers crossed that the Academy will give this film’s its deserved accolade at next year’s Oscars.
This film is the perfect example of how human emotions are universal, regardless of language. In a gently heartrending scene in this production with Arabic and Kurdish language, a woman tells another: “I do not understand your language, but I feel your sorrow and pain.” This is human connection at its best.
Also, without giving away too much here, watch out for the devastating finale, which we are declaring as one of cinema’s greatest moments.
A human tale of hope of closure, this humane film is about how people arise from the ashes and pick up where circumstances left them off – a must watch for 2010, definitely.
(A must watch film which should go down cinema history as one of the best productions ever made)
Review by John Li