Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"An effective short film anchored by a strong central performance."

During 2015, 3,426 civilians were reported to have died in Baghdad as a result of violence. From the outside, we tend to think of these as mass casualties, often in political ters. From the inside, every loss is personal, often with devastating consequences for those left behind.

Ali Kareem Obaid's crISIS follows a father and son living high up in their Baghdad apartment building, from which one can look out across the city with binoculars to try and identify the source of the latest pillar of black smoke. The boy's mother died a year ago, caught in a car bomb explosion. Since then, neither of them has been outside. An Italian relative and a young neighbour help them, bring them supplies. the father is focused entirely on his son's suffering but over time it emerges that he, too, is simply terrified of passing beyond the familiar iron gate.

Inside, there are toys and books and normality. Outside, any illusion of normality is punctured by sporadic explosions. The film calls into questions Western psychiatric models. What does it mean to have post traumatic stress disorder when trauma is ongoing? Are the protagonists really maladjusted when the world outside is dangerous? Yet school and work and social opportunities still matter.

The positive side of having mental health problems in a city like this is that people understand. They can't afford to be indulgent, but they recognise and respect the pain and fear. Mutual respect means the father must ask himself how much his son's reactions are occasioned by his own. Can he be strong enough to face his fears of losing someone else he loves, and let his boy have something approaching a normal life?

Although it's a little heavy on exposition, this is an effective short film anchored by a strong central performance. It's a potent reminder of one of the hidden impacts of war, and of the ordinariness and humanity of those living through it.

Screening at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival as part of Good Grief, Sat 29 Oct, Edinburgh Printmakers.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2016
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A father and son struggle with grief as bombs go off around Baghdad.

Director: Ali Kareem Obaid

Year: 2016

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: Germany, Iraq, Italy, United Arab Emirates



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