Son of Babylon Review


Mohamed Al-Daradji’s latest film offers a devastating look at the effect of the genocidal campaign against the Kurdish people of Northern Iraq led by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Regime. A subject so easily forgotten, it sheds new light on an ever-persistent horror forgetten by the west.

The film follows 12-year-old 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.

American soldiers, referred to as ‘pigs’, highlight the west’s failure to address the real problem. Al-Daradji’s use of non-professional actors who have witnessed the devastation first hand adds authenticity to the piece.

Somewhat surprisingly, Al-Daradji’s superb choice of the striking boy Talib for the lead role came after he bumped into him in Northern Iraq. Hussen has herself been searching 20 years for a husband who went missing and was the only female witness to testify against Saddam at his trial.

Both actors are so convincing in their roles that the result is truly powerful. A notable mention must also be made to Bashir Al-Majid who plays Musa and briefly offers a father figure for Ahmed whilst he himself is plagued by a harrowing past.

Showing a mother’s defiance to accept the truth and a son’s retracing of the footsteps from a father he never knew, Son of Babylon is a truly breathtaking work of art whose cinematography is nothing short of exquisite.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Feb 22 2011.

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