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Review: Marooned in Iraq

Less shrill than Samira Makhmalbaf’s Blackboards, Bahman Ghobadi’s latest is also less didactic.

Marooned in Iraq
Photo: Wellspring

In the Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie chronicles a post-war India’s descent into self-degradation, where dreams are indistinguishable from reality and all sorts of new monsters spill into the void left by the British retreat. Marooned in Iraq is similarly drunk on the horrors that war leaves behind. Less shrill than Samira Makhmalbaf’s Blackboards, Bahman Ghobadi’s latest is also less didactic. Soon after the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein victimizes Iraqi Kurds by unleashing planes into airways overcrowded with rumors and ghosts. Mirza, a Kurdish singer, and his two sons venture into Iraqi Kurdistan in search of the old man’s ex-wife, who left her husband some 23 years ago to marry another man. Lighter and more humorous than Ghobadi’s successful A Time for Drunken Horses, Marooned is still grounded in the chaos of rural underdevelopment. Though the film proves wearisome at times (the monotonous pitch of the film’s performances shouldn’t come as no surprise to fans of Iranian cinema), there are flashes of greatness here that recall both the earlier works of Mohsen Makhmalbaf and the absurdist apocalypses of Emir Kusturica. Men repeatedly emerge from hellish mists, fumbling atop the crumbling limbo beneath their feet; the women rebuild civilization and a hopeful Ghobadi celebrates this progress via a lovely montage set to ethnic song. Mirza’s son is seduced by the hopeful singing of a local woman; she remains completely in shadows yet he proposes marriage nonetheless. And when Mirza himself reunites with his lost wife, her once exquisite singing voice has changed into a witchy, high-pitched squeal by Saddam’s chemical bombings. For Ghobadi, the human voice is not without its allegorical implications and is to be guarded not unlike the fragile earth the Kurd’s have been long denied.

Cast: Shahab Ebrahimi, Iran Ghobadi, Faegh Mohamdi, Rojan Hosseini Director: Bahman Ghobadi Screenwriter: Bahman Ghobadi Distributor: Wellspring Running Time: 97 min Rating: NR Year: 2002 Buy: Video

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