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Monday, January 30, 2012

Mohammed al-Daraji: Winning the Challenge and Being a Maverick

Mohammed al-Darraji, Iraqi filmmaker
Son of Babylon, I heard about this film quite a few times a couple years ago. But, I never thought of who made this film or what it talks about. I heard that the film presents one of many tragedies Iraqis had to go through in the ex-regime era. Still, I never got the interest of knowing the person behind this creation. It's simply because I believed it was a US-made film, and so the filmmaker must be an American director!!! Last month was one of the greatest as it presented me to the person behind this masterpiece! The pre-assumed American director turned to be a young Iraqi man with an unusaul Iraqi stylish looking who fled Iraq while a teenage, and pursued his dream in film industry abroad.
Mohammed al-Daraji is a kind of person once you meet, you would want to stay away from otherwise he would draw you in his overwhelming dreams, ambitions, enthusiasm, energy, dynamics, and sort of craziness!! You would see he has the gutt to do the impossible and cross the tremendous red lines and overcome the davastating challenges.
I was so much lucky and fortunate to meet him personally, and discover the great moments of how to make a film with his exciting young Iraqi students while they shoot their film projects as part of the workshop in which Mohammed trains them on how to make a film.  I won the opportunity to watch all his four films he has made so far since 2004 when he returned to Iraq after the war.
So, here I would like to share my first impression and reactions on each film I watched. Intending to reflect my feelings on the films genuinely and truly, I will leave my impressions and comments without any revising.

My family cried deeply and bitterly for the loss of humanity and joy of life! I felt so happy that I won this chance in my lifetime. At a moment, I whispered to God with a prayer asking that if He wants to end my life now, I would be more than willing to comply to His will. Having watched this precious creativity of Son of Babylon, my whole world, ambitions, dreams and pursuits have stopped all with this innovation.
In 2008, I thought that Will Smith made the masterpiece of reflecting the human journey in a harsh world through his movie Pursuit of Happyness. But, with Mohammed al-Darraji, I believe he reflects the human journey in a bitter life through his movie of "pursuit of struggle" Son of Babylon!!!

I felt angry, so angry. It reminded me of how two young men of my old neighbors had their ears cut because they didn't join the military service in the 1990s, and how their families were evicted from their houses and their furniture was thrown away in the street and all neighbors had to boycot them. It triggered a memory in the 1980s of how young men were tied to posts in open yards with their eyes blindfolded and they were gun-shot to death by ex-regime partisans, who were perfoming executions to those men because simply they didn't join the army, and I was a little kid going with older sister and a lot of people gathering to watch the execution process live-stream!!! Ahlam triggered the stolen dreams of thousands of young people in Iraq. It triggered the repression feelings inside me. The feeling of depression and being deprived. The feeling of how escape and hide even if you are a girl, or not even involved in any certain movements that would be a cause for you being arrested or jailed. And a lot more..... So, in a way, I hated Mohammed al-Darraji deeply for triggering all this!!!!

Guess what? It attracted the family kids so much to the extent that they were asking me about the orphans and how Husham struggles and if he succeeded in achieving something! Some people (women in this case) are destined to take a role much bigger than being a parent for one family; one can be a caretaker or godperson for scores people with what God gave them. We need to recruit people for these boys and their issue. With compassion, dedication, advice and orientation one can do a way further what money can do!

A mixture of feelings through out the movie moments. I was looking at the time and wanted it to come to an end. I felt so burdened, so strangled, and mostly... so unsecured!!! I had thousands of questions in my head that I felt my brain will blow up at a moment. ..All my questions had one thing in common: What IF????

What if: they confiscated the camera?
What if: they got you back to Syria?
What if: you didn't find the actress?
What if: they caught you?
What if: you got shot?
What if: your friends disappointed you?
What if: you quit everything, you quit your dream, you quit Iraq and never come back again?
What if: the kidnappers never released you?
And, most importantly,
What if: we lost our filmmaker, Mohammed, forever???