What I’ve Lost
The German Cultural Centre, the Goethe-Institut, hosted an Iraqi Film Festival here in Damascus. I heard about it because an Iraqi friend here featured in one of the films — Red Zone Citizens (Mounef Shaker, Iraq 2009) — about their theatre group in Baghdad’s “Red Zone”, the most dangerous part of the city. What they had to overcome just to rehearse, really puts things in perspective. I feel like I have no excuse not to do what I want. (My problem being rather to decide what I want…)
These guys were forced to cross military checkpoints, face roadblocks, were disturbed by killings and bombings on their route, just to be in the same place at the same time. That is all before they actually had to stage their work, and collect props, find a place to perform & build the set.
And all this without speaking of the personal, emotional challenges they faced in being part of the group. At one point or other, every member seemed to have faltered, leaving. Yet these absences all ended-up being temporary. Whether it was caused by the loss of family members due to kidnappings, or they felt the risk they were taking in being there was too great, or simply that they did not have enough money, they all ended up in returning. This group was a part of them.
The film I felt was the most compelling was the beautifully produced short-film entitled What I’ve Lost (Duraid Munajim, Canada/Iraq 2008) — I highly recommend watching the trailer. Iraqi refugees, filmed in Jordan, spoke of what they had lost since the war. They spoke of dead fathers & mothers, brothers & sisters, husbands & wives. They spoke of the jobs they had lost, their houses that had been destroyed, the car that they had to leave behind. Lost friends, lost customs. But what they felt most moved about seemed to be the loss of their nation. “Above all, we have lost our country.”
It seemed odd to hear when I had left my family, my friends, my job, my country, all voluntarily. Yet I the difference is that I have the choice of returning. Even if these people can go back to Iraq, it won’t be the same country that they knew, that they loved.
The festival really was stimulating, seeing the image that these people have of their country, and the events that have happened there. Previously, my ideas of Iraq were based solely on what I had read in the news, which focuses on the violence and military operations there, the IEDs, the bombings. These films gave a really human touch to it all. Seeing how people actually lead their lives there, living day-to-day, and what they have to overcome, was inspiring. Amid all the violence, the kidnappings, the killings, people still managed to live; there were parties for New Year, religious festivals, birthdays. They still harbour dreams of what they want to do with their lives, struggling to have an education. Yet at the same time, it is incredibly sad to see how a whole generation — or at least those who survive — will be denied these dreams.
We, as privileged, educated, relatively well-off westerners, have no excuses.