Oct 25. Marooned in Iraq

Marooned in Iraq – Kurdish Iran – 2002 – Drama/Comedy.  A rare glimpse into the culture of the Kurds.  “A sorrowful road comedy set in a place where hardship and humor are brothers in arms.”-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Even though the film’s tone grows ever more elegiac, it stubbornly remains a celebration of the Kurdish capacity to endure.”-Los Angeles Times.  Kurds, the world’s most numerous ethnic group (30-40 million) not to have their own nation, live in the mountainous borderland between Iran, Iraq, Syria & Turkey.  They’ve been there for thousands of years, mostly as persecuted minorities divided between more powerful states.  Marooned in Iraq is set in 1991, so this particular film’s villain is Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who is bombing villages attempting to resist his dominance.  It could just as easily be Syria’s Assad, or Turkey’s Erdogan, or ISIS.  The plot centers around Mirza, a famous elderly Kurdish singer living in Iran.  He becomes concerned about the safety of his ex-wife and former singing partner, Hanareh, who over two decades earlier left him to marry another member of their ensemble and move to Iraqi Kurdistan.  Mirza rounds up his sons, fellow musicians Barat and Audeh, and together they set out to find Hanareh, constantly bickering along the way.  What happens is a journey funny, dangerous and touching – as the trio wanders on the edge of a war zone and witness the destruction that Saddam Hussein has wrought first hand.    In a Special Feature interview the director, Bahman Ghobadi, says near-constant persecution has forged in the Kurdish character an outsized appreciation of music, humour, and the absurdity of life in almost constant chaos.  His film shows the near-reverent deference given to musicians, and how music is vital to everyday living.  It also shows glimpses of the status of Kurdish women, who go about unveiled, are more free to speak their minds, and have a more equal position than in most moslem societies.


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