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July 7, 2005

The Dreams of Sparrows

First-time Iraqi director Hayder Mousa Daffar's documentary, The Dreams of Sparrows (IMDB),purports to "tell the truth about Iraq." Daffar collaborates with other members of the Iraqi artistic community, including filmmakers and cinematographers who were unable to make films under the regime of Saddam Hussein. At first, I worried that the film was going to be an uncritical look at the coalition's removal of Hussein from power. One of Daffar's collaborators proudly displays a newspaper photograph of George Bush that he keeps in his wallet. But Daffar, shooting primarily in low-budget digital video, quickly complicates this narrative. In addition, because Daffar generally speaks in English when addressing the viewer, it seems clear that his primary audience is outside Iraq, another point of interest for the film.

Travelling with a small film crew, Daffar visits several sections of Iraq, including Fallujah, during the eraly moments of the insurgency, and it quickly becomes clear that there are no easy answers in Iraq. This claim in itself, of course, isn't terribly surprising or new (although I'll admit that I find these politically ambivalent documentaries to be rather compelling). Many Iraqis quickly acknowledge that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous and cruel leader, but others miss the relative stability that his regime provided, including consistent access to electricity and gasoline (Daffar places emphasis on the gas shortages that severely affected Baghdad). Others are suspicious about the reasons behind the US-led invasion. And Daffar generally avoids any explicit claims about Iraq. But what makes the film (available on DVD) more interesting is its position as one of the first Iraqi productions after the fall of Hussein. And the low-budget aesthetic adds to the film's sense of crisis in Iraq.

It has been a few days since I watched Sparrows so this review is a little short on specifics, but it is an interesting take on the US invasion of Iraq that seems specifically aimed at US audiences.

Update: Via Green Cine, the news that the film's producers are calling for people to organize house parties to gain a wider audience for the film.

Posted by chuck at July 7, 2005 1:07 PM

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