Ahlaam – shattered dreams in Baghdad

Scarred Baghdad 2003… Confusion, uncertainty and death engulf the bombed ruins of a psychiatric asylum. Voyeuristically we move between the past and present of three Iraqi lives entangled by the chaos of the American ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign…
‘Ahlaam’ a bewildered young woman, confined to the asylum after witnessing the violent arrest of her fiancee on their wedding day… deeply bruised she lives a confined existence in a state of delusion. Brutally damaged at the hands of the regime, Ahlaam is left with little hope, only a dream…
img and text excerpt via BRKLYNFEST

The film Ahlaam has got some attention with its mentioning at the Oscar’s in the class for the best foreign language film, but it is just now that it is slowly touring and coming to some cinemas in Europe and North America.
Though viewing the film might be a tough experience, it surely relates more closely to the circumstances people in Iraq are living with than most other media footage the West is able to access, and which rarely transmits anything else than the next bomb explosion. How might it be to live there ? … Al-Daradji tried to catch a glimpse with this feature film, which was done under difficult circumstances inside Iraq.

…. Al-Daradji’s film is unflinching in its depiction of the reality of life in Saddam’s Iraq, but circumstances actually worsen when the story returns to the present and the psychiatric hospital is struck by a US bomb. The patients stumble through holes in the walls into a city that has gone from a state of repression to one of violent anarchy. Looters pillage shops and homes, and gunmen roam the streets. Into this scene come the first American troops, waving their rifles in the face of every Iraqi they meet and barking orders like parodies of professional soldiers. The bewildered patients endure abuse, rape and sniper fire as they roam a cityscape devoid of compassion, dignity or hope. In this chaotic environment Doctor Medhi’s efforts to protect his patients and treat them with some degree of kindness come to nothing.

Ahlaam concludes on an utterly despairing note, but the film is not a condemnation of any one group or even one specific war—it is a deeply affecting cry of pain from a people who have been bombed, betrayed, abused and had every atrocity imaginable perpetrated upon them. The film allows no position of observance, or emotional or intellectual distance. It is not a piece of analysis. It makes every viewer live through this trauma to force them to ask how this could happen.

The film’s pessimism was no doubt sharpened by the conditions under which it was made—conditions that directly reflected the situations dramatised on screen. …. (read on at realtime on screen)

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