- Title: IRAQ: "Son of Babylon" film premieres in Iraq to promote forgiveness
- Date: 12th May 2010
- Summary: BAGHDAD, IRAQ (MAY 8, 2010) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BASHEER AL-MAJID, IRAQI ACTOR, SAYING: "The message of the film is to show that we have to forgive each other. Forgiveness may return Iraq to its real entity. I think that we as artists, should work on gathering the Iraqi sects and weave the political, intellectual and civilised sections with threads of silk."
- Embargoed: 27th May 2010 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Reuters ID: LVA5PY4M1S3ZHVVJQRRXUEVWJRQN
- Story Text: For most Iraqis, Saddam Hussein's regime brings back dark memories of a brutal police state and deadly wars where thousands of Iraqis disappeared, many of whom were later found in mass graves.
But Iraq's award-winning director Mohamed al-Daradji has released a new film titled "Son of Babylon" that follows the journey of a young boy, with the help of his grandmother, in search of the boy's missing father from the Gulf War. The film uncovers some of the country's past horrors but also seeks to convey that forgiving those responsible is the way forward.
The film comes at a time when sectarian tensions have marred the formation of a government following general elections on March 7.
Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs overwhelmingly backed former Baathist Iyad Allawi's secular bloc, whilst Shi'ites backed Islamist parties who have sought to sideline former Baath party members from the political scene.
"When we made this film, we didn't have an intention of bringing up the past to seek revenge, debaathification and all these political concepts. We did it so we can pursue forgiveness and for justice and this was our message," said Daradji from his small office in the Iraqi capital.
Daradji defied all odds when filming his first feature film in Iraq featuring a woman who escaped from a looted mental hospital in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Daradji's crew faced difficulties from the U.S. military and also Iraqi militants when they shot the film "Ahlaam" in Baghdad.
Ahlaam set Iraqi filmmaking back on the scene. Now Son of Babylon has won over many film critics and is scheduled for showing at a large number of festivals around the world.
"The film received a big reception in the international U.S. Sundance film festival and it has won two awards in the Berlin festival. The movie has been invited to more than 70 festivals in the world and it will distributed commercially and culturally in many countries like: Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Arab countries, Turkey and Europe. The film will participate in Cannes and will be shown there, a number of distributors in Europe like the film. The film was produced by donations from outside Iraq. Not a single cent was donated from inside Iraq," Daradji said, indicating there was no political backing to his latest project.
The film cost around 1.5 million U.S. dollars to shoot and Daradji said he spent between two and three years preparing the movie before filming began.
The film, set in 2003, was shot in 2008 and 2009 as Iraq began to slowly emerge from deadly sectarian violence. Some of the scenes were shot in European countries like France and the Netherlands.
Son of Babylon is a very personal story for the lead actress, Shehzad Hussein, who lost her husband 22 years ago during the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988, and was the only woman to testify against Saddam during his trial.
Basheer al-Majid, an Iraqi actor who was an Iraqi soldier during Saddam's reign, said that the film aimed at gathering the different sects of Iraq.
"The message of the film is to show that we have to forgive each other. Forgiveness may return Iraq to its real entity. I think that we as artists, should work on gathering the Iraqi sects and weave the political, intellectual and civilised sections with threads of silk," he said.
Iraq's Missing Campaign was established in 2010 to provide direct practical relief and support to the relatives of the thousands of missing and disappeared in Iraq. It does this by both high-profile campaigning and support for local projects.
Families of missing persons, regardless of nationality, race, religion, class, gender or political affiliation, have the right to access information concerning the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones, which is clearly defined in international law. They are among the most traumatised by the situation in Iraq, many are refugees, and are highly vulnerable to political manipulation. Their pain is increased by the lingering uncertainty of their situation, which has been classed as a form of mental torture by the United Nations and the European Court for Human Rights.
The Ministry of Human Rights in Iraq has said that it estimates that as many as 1,500,000 people remain missing and unidentified in the country. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of bodies have been discovered in more than 300 mass graves. Missing persons may have been captured, abducted, secretly detained; many have certainly been killed and buried en masse in unmarked graves. At the central morgue in Baghdad almost 50 percent of bodies brought to their facilities -averaging around 600-800 per month - are unidentified because they lack basic equipment, trained staff and security. So as not to overload their limited facilities, after a period, unclaimed bodies are buried in special cemeteries.
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