Leeds-based filmmaker Mohamed Al Daradji has returned to Baghdad, where he shot his Oscar-shortlisted debut feature Ahlaam, screening it to over a 1000 locals and politicans at the national cinema. The journey has been documented by the filmmaker and is currently showing on Al Jazeera UK on Sky (details below).
"It's about human stories... The Iraqi people change from being just a number used by the media as a way to fill out the news to becoming normal human beings."
Mohamed Al Daradji
Ahlaam, from Northern production company Human Film has been highly praised throughout its festival run, and is one of the more remarkable independent filmmaking stories of recent years. Daradji, inspired to film in Iraq following a dream he had after watching BBC News, on a micro-budget used a cast and crew of largely untrained Iraqis to recreate both pre- and mid-war Baghdad to tell the story of three Iraqis left to survive in an asylum during the 'shock and awe' campaign. Kidnapped by both the insurgents and the US military (who each accused him of being a stooge of the other), Mohamed worked on set with a machine gun in one hand and camera in the other and was almost executed in his attempts to bring this heartbreaking human story to screen.
While support in the UK has been slow, news has emerged in recent weeks that director Antonio Bird (Face, Ravenous, The Hamburg Cell) is to produce Daradji's next film Umm Hussein, which follows a mother across Iraq as she searches for her son. The project has already been selected for the Sundance writers lab. Post production on Shooting In Iraq, which documents the story of the making of Ahlaam, is also moving ahead, which has to be one of the most eagerly awaited behind the scenes since Eleanor Coppola's Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse. In further good news Human Film have announced that the Ahlaam will be released in France, Spain and the UK later this year. We hope to publish an interview with Mohamed, conducted earlier in the year, very soon.
Trip of Dreams is showing on Al Jazeera, Sky Channel 514 on Wednesday 6th June 00:30, 11:30, 20:30; Thursday 7th June 05:30, 19:30; Friday 8th June 03:00, 16:30; Saturday 9th June 06:30