Kurdish Iranian new wave cinema: The Songs of My Mothers Land – Marooned in Iraq (2002)

Marooned_in_IraqSunday February 15th 2015, Kurdish Iranian new wave cinema: The Songs of My Mothers Land – Marooned in Iraq. آوازهای سرزمین مادری‌ام‎ (گم‌گشتگی در عراق) by Bahman Ghobadi, 2002, 108 minutes. In Kurdish and Persian with English subtitles. Door opens at 8pm, film begins at 9pm. Free admission.

Synopsis: In Iran and Iraq’s postwar years, when Iraq bombs its Kurdistan, an old Iranian Kurd singer, accompanied by his musician sons, start searching for his ex-wife Hanareh. Hanareh, a women singer, has gone to Kurdistan in Iraq. The film is the story of the band’s journey, joined with their music. It is the story of a nation that has always been wandering. Being so used to war, they take it as a game and with their music they celebrate life.

Many years ago before our memories were clouded by the moments of heroic bravery at the hangman’s alter which will, for many Arabs, go on to posthumously defining Saddam Hussein, there were innumerable mass graves, gassed victims, orphaned children and menacing jet fighters roaring in the Kurd skies that reminded people of what Saddam stood for.

Bahman Ghobadi’s “Songs of my motherland” (also known as ‘Marooned in Iraq’) is not just a tale of Mirza the legendary Kurd singer but an epic of his people. As Mirza sets out to seek his rebellious ex-wife, Henareh, a belle who has captured the hearts of the people through her voice and her songs, we are introduced to the nuances and shades of the people of the region.

The Kurds are as rugged as their inhospitable landscape locked between the Arab, Turkish and Iranian nationalists who are willing to forcefully suppress anyone that questions their territorial integrity with calls for a Kurdistan. Yet through the eccentric tribal mannerisms of the Kurdish people and their scant regard for authority the movie reveals the trait of natural defiance comfortably adjusted to a cruel fate that the Kurds have had.

The journey of Mirza with his two sons, the bachelor Barat and Oudeh with seven wives and counting (until one of them produces a son), is of the opposite direction to the flow of the refugees leaving the Iraqi side to avoid the devastating aerial shelling and chemical gas attacks. They meet caravans of distraught Kurds running for cover, others digging for mass graves to identify their massacred kin, and amidst the chaos an isolated school nestled in the mountains with hundreds of orphaned children. Yet Mirza treads on disregarding any advice in his mission to find out why Henareh, the symbolic voice of the Kurds, beckoned him.

Ghobadi’s use of non-actors for the roles may at times end up being disjointed, but the erratic and impetuous nature fluctuating between violent outbursts and an impulsive acceptance of songs, dance and love present a people who refuse to be defined by their misery. Women are symbolically shown as builders and constructors as well as the hope for survival resolute in their determination.

This movie is important as much for its frank introduction of the Kurdish people as it is for remembering the horrors unleashed upon them by a man whose name in the film is preferably attached with a curse (“God damn Saddam!” and “May God destroy Saddam and kill his sons!”) by the displaced Kurds, revealing a defiance that betrays their suppressed and exiled-from-life condition.

While the power of a mobile phone clip of Saddam’s hanging may potentially water down his image as a brutal dictator, the message of this movie will affirm to us that justice took a long time in coming. Such as for Henareh who loses her voice and beauty in the chemical gas attacks.

Photos and more information here http://www.mijfilm.com/filmography/the-songs-of-my-mothers-land-marooned-in-iraq

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