Movie puts spotlight on missing Iraqis

GMT 02:35 Wednesday ,15 June 2011

 Migrant Voice - Movie puts spotlight on missing Iraqis


Road movie puts the spotlight on missing Iraqis OneWorld By Daniel Nelson   Son of Babylon is more than just a film about a 12-year-old Iraqi and his grandmother looking for his father and her son: it’s the inspiration for an organisation, Iraq’s Missing Campaign (IMC), set up with prize money from the film.   Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of bodies have been discovered in more than 300 mass graves in Iraq. The Ministry of Human Rights estimates that up to 1.5 million people remain missing and unidentified - captured, abducted, secretly detained or killed and buried in unmarked graves.   “It is important for the future of Iraq that we engage in a sustainable effort to address this issue,” the newly appointed Minister of Human Rights, Mohammed S. Al-Sudaney, said at a screening of the film in Geneva on 3 February. “Millions of Iraqis have been affected by decades of abuse and we must work on their behalf to find their missing relatives.”   The IMC is using Son of Babylon to inform audiences of human rights violations through the power of cinema and fiction. To give added poignancy, the film is a personal story for the lead actress, Shehzad Hussein, who continues to search for the husband she lost 22 years ago during Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign against the Kurds.   "When I met Shazada," director Mohamed Al-Daradji has recalled, "she told me how she had lost her husband. She cried, I cried. I had a hard time convincing her to join me. She doesn't care about cinema. She'd never been to a cinema. She knows it was not going to bring her husband back. I could only persuade her that it would be a way for her to talk about him."   Discussions at the Geneva screening led to an agreement with the International Commission on Missing Persons to “apply DNA identity testing to accurately identify victims of atrocities.” The IMC will monitor the progress of this scheme.   One of the film’s most desolate scenes shows Ahmed and his grandmother raking through a mass grave site in the hopeless quest to find their missing relative.   Despite the grimness of the scene and the search, and the sadness of the ending, the film - a sort of Iraqi road movie, set two weeks after Saddam Hussein’s fall – has humour and humanity.   Next screening: 21 June, £6.50, BFI, Southbank  


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