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Interview with Iraqi filmmaker, Mohammad Al-Daradji
In Cinema’s Arms
by Mohammad Reza Fartousi

Mohamed Al-Daradj  Mohammad Al-Daradji, the 33-year-old Iraqi filmmaker, was a guest of the 29th Fajr International Film Festival (February 2011). In addition to brining two films as director and one film as producer to international competition section of the festival, he was also a judge of another section, “Asian Cinema.” Son of Babylon, which was directed by him, won a plaque of honor in international competition section. Mohammad Al-Daradji had already won prizes for the same film from Berlin, Sundance, Dubai and Abu Dhabi film festivals. Variety magazine has also introduced him as the best Middle Eastern filmmaker of 2010. In the following interview, he reflects on the Iraqi cinema.

Film International: Tell us about Mohammad Al-Daradji.
Mohammad Al-Daradji: He is a very humble director from Iraq. I studied cinema in Fine Arts College of Baghdad, but did not finish it. In 1994, the former Iraqi regime executed my cousin on political charges. Since I was very close to him, I came under tremendous pressures and could not finish the college. Therefore, I left Iraq and fled to the Netherlands. Once there, I studied at a film academy. Then, I completed a bachelor’s course in cinematography and a master’s course in film directing in UK. I have made three features and eight short films so far.
FI: Your latest film, Son of Babylon, has drawn a lot of critical attention. It has been described a true image of Iraq. Whence the film’s idea came and why it focuses on mass graves?
MA: Son of Babylon is, in fact, an elegy; an outcry, something from the bottom of the heart. I was strolling along Al-Rashid Street of Baghdad in 2003 when I heard that a mass grave had been discovered near the historical city of Babylon. I was shocked; how there could be a mass grave close to historical relics of Babylon? I remembered my aunt whose son Ali had disappeared in Iran-Iraq war and the Baathist regime withheld information as to his whereabouts. We did not know whether he had been killed in action, or by intelligence agents, or was being held captive in Iran. There was no sign of him. My aunt kept crying and her wailing never ended...

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2011, Film International
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