New Delhi (UNI): The regime of Saddam Hussain in Iraq may be a thing of the past but for the common man in the Arab country, the brutality during that period and the subsequent trauma of the American bombing of the country are still fresh in memory. The confusion, uncertainty and shock experienced by the common man in Iraq during the Saddam regime and America's 'Shock and Awe' campaign has been beautifully captured in Mohamad Al Daradji's 'Ahlaam' (The Dreams), being screened at the ongoing film festival of Asian cinema.
Written and directed by young Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al Daradji, 'Ahlaam' depicts life in strife-torn Iraq during Saddam's rule through the story of three Iraqi people - 'Ahlaam', a bewildered young woman who is confined to the asylum after witnessing the violent arrest of her fiancee on their wedding day; Dr Mehndi, a hardworking idealist who is condemned to work at the institution and who longs for a free Iraq where humanity is cherished, not brutalised; and Ali, a former soldier admitted to the asylum whom the trauma of the US bombing of his platoon has turned into a shell shocked shadow of his former self of an optimistic man eager to serve his country.
For young Iraqi filmmaker Al Daradji, making the film was an endeavour to depict on celluloid as to how ordinary people struggled to come to terms with life during the Saddam regime and the destruction caused by US war on Iraq. ''The main purpose of making the film was to bring to the world the real story of the average Iraqi person who, finding himself experiencing varied feelings of confusion, uncertainty and death all through the 12 years of the Baathist regime, longed for a free Iraq where humanity is cherished, not brutalised'' Al Daradji told mediapersons at the Asian film festival.
For the 28-year-old filmmaker, making a film on the life under the Saddam regime was, however, no easy task. ''Ahlaam is the second feature film to be made after the fall of Saddam's regime. Infact, for 12 years under the Ba'athist regime, economic and political sanctions on Iraq meant that filmmaking was next to impossible'' the filmmaker said. So, shooting for the film could be held only after the fall of the Saddam regime. ''The film was written and shot by the Iraqi people, who finally had a chance to realise their dreams through a film about how ordinary Iraqi people come to terms with life... and look to a brighter future'' Al Daradji said. However, the filmmaker had to go to foreign countries for post-production work as facilities for it did not exist in Baghdad. ''We completed the shooting of the film in Baghdad but had to go to Beirut for post-production as Baghdad does not have any post-production facilities'' the filmmaker said.
Managing finances for the film was also a problem ''I send at least 150 applications to seek proposals for co-productions but all were rejected. Then, an organisation in Holland came forward to help in print and post-production cost. The rest of the funds came from the money I got as part of the best ad filmmaker award during my studies in a UK university'' he said.
''For us, 'Ahlaam' was the first experience of making a big film. Making the film was our journey towards self-discovery,''he said. The film is, however, yet to be released in Iraq. ''The problem about releasing a film like this in Iraq is that the moment the word gets out, there is a likelihood of one being threatened or killed by sections sympathetic with the Saddam regime'' Al Daradji said. However, he plans to hold a screening for the film's cast and crew sometime soon. Al Daradji said as a filmmaker, it was his endeavour to make films which touched upon the plight of women and children, who have been the worst sufferers of the brutalisation during the Saddam regime and the subsequent American bombing of the country.