Marooned in Iraq: Ghobadi’s tour of Kurdistan

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Benjamin Kweskin
  • 25/03/2005 00:00:00

A historical fiction film and a Cannes film festival award winner, Marooned in Iraq (2002), takes place during the violent and bloody Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). Like other conflicts in the Middle East, the Kurds are shown blatantly caught in the middle of this war, and are just trying to “make it.”

Through humor as well as tragedy, director Bahman Ghobadi portrays one of our heroes, the old character Mirza, an accomplished Kurdish musician who everybody seems to know at least something about. Mirza, searching for one of his wives, Hanareh, who ran way, travels with his sons, Audeh and Barat across the dangerous war-torn border to eastern Iraqi Kurdistan. His sons, however, initially don’t want to leave their relative comfort in Iran to help their father find someone who isn’t even their mother—and with whom they find disfavor with. Ultimately, they are conned by their clever and extremely popular father, who subsequently leads them through an unforgettable journey to find his long-lost Hanareh.

Echoing the plight of the Kurdish nation, Marooned in Iraq shows somewhat subtle hints of the repressive and vicious regime of Saddam Hussein. Throughout the musicians’ travels, Mirza and his two sons unfortunately come face to face with Kurdish realities under Saddam—mass graves, kidnapped sons, raped women, and orphaned children who don’t even know what an airplane is—but once they learn they find out that the flying machines have been used to bomb their homes and villages.

The scenery shown of Kurdistan is breathtaking and the sense of communalism is equally striking to an unfamiliar observer. This newly found appreciation for the flora, music, humor, and overall culture enabled me to distance myself from the edgy moments of the film during the intra-Kurdish fighting as well as the previously mentioned political issues. Moreover, and perhaps even more importantly, Ghobadi allows the viewer to feel as if they were along for the cross-border ride on Barat’s motorcycle, laughing and crying with the characters, but then again came the more predictable nerve-wracking moments; the jet planes, references to Saddam, the mass graves, and feeling entirely helpless and sympathetic with the orphaned children.

Thankfully, ever present throughout the duration of this well done movie is a touch—or spark of Kurdish optimism. There are intentional moments and efforts to “lighten up” the mood, which were often framed by Kurdish humor (especially that of Audeh) as well as exciting music, particularly during a wedding ceremony.

A very memorable movie, perhaps most intriguing about Marooned in Iraq was the plot of the runaway wife itself. Mirza and Hanareh are the old Kurds; wise and respected, they are they ‘roots’ of Kurdistan. They remember the past struggles, but remain steadfast and look to the future in their own way. They remind the younger generation of what exactly Kurds should stand for: love, compassion, tolerance, family, respect, and a sense of pride in their national identity. Ghobadi easily distributes all these qualities of a model Kurd and all the lessons taught throughout the expedition are learned by Mirza’s sons and they each come away from the journey changed men—exactly what a good adventure should do.

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Benjamin Kweskin
  • 25/03/2005 00:00:00