EIFF – Son of Babylon Review 18/06/10


A devastatingly beautiful look at the effect of the genocidal campaign against the Kurdish people of Northern Iraq led by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Regime.

Son of Babylon follows a 12 year old boy Ahmed (Yassir Talib) and his grandmother Um-Ibrahim (Shehzad Hussen) as they head south in search of Ahmed’s father after hearing that there are surviving prisoners of war now that Saddam has fallen. Along the way they are constantly met with the aftermath of bloodshed, hitching rides and crossing the paths of others sharing equally disheartening  histories in an unending journey which offers no consolation.

Incredibly moving, Mohamed Al-Daradji’s film illustrates an unrealised Iraq and a subject so easily forgotten by the Western populace shedding new light on an ever persistent horror. Featuring few appearances from American soldiers who are referred to as “Pigs”, it highlights how the major problem of Iraq is not being addressed by the Occident. It shows a mother’s defiance in accepting the truth and a son’s retracing of footsteps from a father he never knew.

Continuing his passion for non famous actors, Al-Daradji showcases the superb talent of Talib a striking boy who he bumped into in Northern Iraq and Hussen who herself has been searching 20 years for a husband who went missing and was the only female witness to testify against Saddam at his trial. Both are so convincing in their roles that the result is truly hollowing. A notable mention must also be made to Bashir Al-Majid who plays Musa and briefly offers a father figure for Ahmed whilst himself is plagued by a harrowing past.

I feel it is important to illustrate that this film was released in conjunction with the Iraq’s Missing Persons campaign launched by Human film and Iraq Al-Rafidain which states on the Human Film website: “The Iraq Ministry of Human Rights estimate more than 1.5 million have gone missing over the last 40 years and estimate 500,000 bodies have been recovered from 300 mass graves so far. This number will grow as more mass graves are discovered, which is sure to overwhelm the limited resources that aid organisations in Iraq have. Human Film hopes the ’IRAQ’S MISSING’ campaign and ‘SON OF BABYLON’ will communicate the extent of the genocide and begin the redirection of resources dedicated to the identification of the bodies. The campaign is close to the hearts of the film-makers and one that inspired the journey portrayed in ’SON OF BABYLON’. Isabelle Stead, Producer, quotes, ‘I hope it will inspire a high-profile approach to human rights violations that will no longer go unnoticed by the world’.”

A truly breathtaking work of cinema with exquisite cinematography, if there is one piece of World Cinema you watch this year, make it this.

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