War, Love, God & Madness

War, Love, God & Madness


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

If Mohamed Al-Daradji’s feature film Ahlaam (Dreams) put a very human face on the tragedy of Iraq for the people who live there, this companion piece documentary – which stands as a coruscating testament in its own right - brings it even more sharply into focus. Shot over the course of the making of Ahlaam, it offers a staggering and petrifying insight into the very real dangers faced by Al-Daradji and his crew as they attempt to give politics a bodyswerve, in favour of lending the average person on the street a voice.

With just three hours of electricity per day, a seemingly impossible hunt for a leading lady who will agree to shoot Ahlaam’s ‘rape’ scene and a struggle to get access to “the only camera in Iraq” things would seem difficult enough, but this is only the beginning of the crew’s problems.

Copy picture

Facing questions from the US army and numerous militia, they try to operate as under the radar as possible, often getting through checkpoints by posing as TV crews. “Trust in God, and Al-Jazeera,” says one of Al-Daradji’s crew, wryly.

Before the shoot is over, they will have faced the very real threat of violence, watched one of their own battle post-traumatic stress and come close to giving up on their own dream of “trying to build culture and Iraq”.

The climate of fear is all-pervading and the chaos of the situation encapsulated by the film’s title; one of Al-Daradji’s friends points out that, in Arabic, by taking just one letter from the word “war” you can get the word “love” or “God”, adding “it’s madness”.

Despite facing the fact they could be attacked or questioned by virtually anyone at any time, there is no attempt to demonise any one faction in this documentary, merely to show how this kind of “madness” can sink into the soul of a city. Although the camerawork lacks the cinematographic finesse of Ahlaam – all the more incredible after you have seen this – it has a powerful message. The soundscape of Iraq is also clearly captured – the almost constant noise of gunshots or the steady whop-whop of US helicopters flying overhead. As with the equally disturbing documentary My Country, My Country, you begin to realise it would be almost impossible for anyone to live in this situation and not become traumatised.

Speaking to Al-Daradji as he is on the brink of giving up and returning back to Europe without his film, one of his friends says: “If you don’t fight for your dreams, you don’t deserve them.” He – and his crew – have fought valiantly and at much personal cost for their dream and they deserve all the recognition that should come their way as a result.

Reviewed on: 10 May 2008
Share this with others on...
War, Love, God & Madness packshot
A disturbing journey into Iraq, documenting the making of Ahlaam.

Director: Mohamed Al-Daradji

Year: 2008

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: UK, Iraq, Netherlands, Palestine, Sweden

Search database:

If you like this, try:

My Country, My Country