Mohamed Al Daradji's 'In the Sands of Babylon' screened at the Arab Film Festival, Jordan
In the Sands of Babylon won best Arab film at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2013. (IMDB)
For Iraqi director Mohamed Al Daradji, the screening of his film “In the Sands of Babylon” in Amman was an opportunity to make the forgotten voices of Iraqi people heard once again.
“Cinema makes the country [Iraq] alive and makes my fellow Iraqis’ voices heard. Cinema can make you aware of the culture of some countries. Some countries have used cinema to conquer the whole world,” Daradji told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the Arab Film Festival, which featured his film last Wednesday.
The 92-minute film, screened at the Royal Film Commission (RFC), talks about an Iraqi soldier, Ibrahim, who escaped from Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War. He then has to take a perilous journey home, with only one path across the southern desert.
Ibrahim is soon captured by the Iraqi republican guard and jailed, suspected of being a traitor.
In 2013, in search of answers, the director focuses on a photographer with a painful secret, a farmer who hides his scars to forget, and an ex-prisoner. Their secrets are key to revealing the truth behind Ibrahim’s journey, according to the film’s synopsis.
“Between imagination and reality there is a line; we can cross it in any moment, and in a country like Iraq there are many wars and crises and I wanted to deal with the combination of reality and imagination in our daily life,” Daradji explained.
The filmmaker said he wanted to talk about people who have been forgotten along with their sacrifices and how they dealt with oppression under the old regime.
Rabaa Majed, an Iraqi mother of three who attended the film’s screening in Amman, said it sheds light on stories and details of history that the younger generation is not aware of.
“I am glad that my children attended the screening because I witnessed these events but they did not,” she told The Jordan Times when the film ended.
“I cried when I watched the movie. I witnessed these events and my brother passed away recently because of similar events,” Majed added.
Her son, Abdul Azeez Yahia, said he was born at the time of the war and did not really witness the events but heard about them.
“I am glad I got to watch it because my mother suffered so much during the war, taking care of her house, job and children, while my father and many Iraqi fathers were busy taking part in the war.”
“In the Sands of Babylon” the filmmaker was inspired by an individual’s story.
“I was moved by my aunt’s story. She lost her son in the Iraq-Iran war. She couldn’t find his body and was searching for him.”
In this movie, Daradji said, he wanted to search for his cousin “Ibrahim” in his own way and look for the other missing soldiers.
Lamenting the current situation of the Iraqi film industry, the director noted that it emerged promisingly in 2003, but has now fallen short of filmmakers’ aspirations.
“I think if there is security and if people focus on cinema and make it a pillar of the Iraqi economy things will get better because we do not only need it for economic reasons, but also culturally. The problem in the Arab world is not a security one, it is a cultural issue.”
The film festival, held by the RFC for the fifth year in a row, continues on Friday with the Moroccan film “Adios Carmen” and concludes on Saturday with the Jordanian documentary “The Unbearable Presence of Asmahan”, which will be screened in the presence of director Azza El Hassan, who will lead a discussion with the audience.
RFC Project Manager Shadi Al Nimri said the commission selected films that are not commercial and offer poignant themes.
“Most of these movies have the same theme which is to be different and how to accept others and have the right to be different,” he noted.
The festival features eight films from Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Palestine, according to Nimri.
By Muath Freij
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