Desperate Hours

Joseph Fahim
3 Min Read

Iraqi/Kurdish film kicks off the CIFF s Controversial Films section

CAIRO: It was impossible to go prepared for Shawkat Amin Korki s Crossing the Dust. But a double-billed Iraqi-Kurdish movie in the controversial films section was enough to pique anyone s interest.

Minutes after the screening began, it was obvious why the film was branded controversial . Yet this controversy was soon overshadowed by the movie s humane message and original plot.

Set in Iraq immediately after the American troops invaded the country in 2003, it tells the story of a five-year-old boy called Saddam (a beggar the producers met in the pre-production phase and instantly cast him) who gets lost in the chaos. Two Kurdish fighters find him and argue whether they should keep him or not. One of them sympathizes and takes him home, to the dismay of his partner who believes the boy s bad luck.

Together the three travel to many of the newly shattered corners of the country hoping to find Saddam s parents or any other relatives.

Crossing the Dust is essentially a road movie chronicling the bedlam in the five hours following the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Many scenes show how Iraqis celebrated the arrival of the Americans and the end of Hussein s dictatorship.

Director Amin Korki said those scenes weren t fiction: they were based on actual footage the director tracked closely after American troops landed in Baghdad.

Don t jump to conclusions, though. Korki s film doesn t celebrate the US invasion. In one scene the owner of a gas station tells the celebrators not to put their hopes up as Americans aren t the true solution for this torn country.

What the director emphasizes the most is the misery many Kurds lived through during Hussein s era. Flashbacks of one of the soldiers losing his leg and the rest of his family during the Kurdish genocide (Anfal) makes us understand, but not justify, the soldier s hate for the little boy.

In the final analysis, the film is tries to send a message about the need for unity between Iraqis. ?The film was shot with minimal resources in various Iraqi towns, where the crew witnessed at least two bombings per day claiming more than two dozen lives each time. These details added so much authenticity the film felt more like docudrama than fiction.

The final scene ? where one of the leading characters drives his truck out of the country with tears covering his rugged face ? left viewers with one question: Is he crying over what has become of Iraq or what will become of it?

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