|6:30 p.m.||Son of Babylon|
Mohamed Al-Daradji (Iraq/England/France/Occupied Palestinian Territories/Netherlands/United Arab Emirates/Egypt, 2010)
The director of festival favorite Ahlaam returns with this powerful tale of contemporary Iraq, a road movie across a land where roads, it seems, are the only things left intact. In 2003, after Saddam Hussein’s fall, a willful young boy and his even more obstinate grandmother set off from Iraqi Kurdistan to find the boy’s father, a dissident who they believe has been freed from a political prison. Hitching a ride with a chatty anti-Saddam trucker, they move past American checkpoints and into Baghdad’s ruined streets, still burning from constant gunfire and explosions; from there they head south to prison towns, where grieving women shout the names of their missing loved ones into burial pits or darkened doorways. “A new mass grave has been found; go there to look,” is repeated from town to town, a phrase infused with both sorrow and hope, yet even within such tragedy lies a unbowed humanity, whether seen in the unexpected kindness of an ex-soldier, or the boy’s dreams of seeing Babylon’s fabled Hanging Gardens. Furtively made in wartorn situations and frequently hostile environments, Son of Babylon offers a fascinating, crucial vision of contemporary Iraq, and its people’s continuing search for justice and closure (many of the film’s cast and crew were themselves political prisoners or activists, and lead actress Shazada Hussein is the only woman to have testified at Saddam Hussein’s trial). With a humanist feel that recalls early Abbas Kiarostami, Son of Babylon offers further proof of Al-Daradji’s essential commitment to not only rebuilding Iraqi cinema, but portraying Iraqi life.
• Written by Jennifer Norridge, Al-Daraji, Mithal Ghazi. Photographed by Al-Daradji, Duraid Al-Munajim. With Yasser Talib, Shazada Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid. (90 mins)