Son of Babylon
Year of release: 2009
Directed by: Mohammed Al Daridji
This Iraqi road movie is directed by a Baghdad-born moviemaker who learned his craft in Britain. It's a gruelling, unsentimental film in a neo-realist vein, with finance from eight different countries, that follows a journey the length of Iraq made in 2003 a few weeks after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The travellers are a middle-aged Kurdish woman and her 12-year-old grandson, Ahmed, and their objective is to discover whether her son/his father, missing since the first Gulf war, is alive in a recently opened prison camp near the border with Kuwait or dead in a mass grave nearby.
The pair get a lift to Baghdad from the cheerful Kurdish driver of a battered pick-up truck, and then proceed by a series of buses, the boy's smattering of Arabic helping them make contacts along the way. Except for casually callous American soldiers at checkpoints, most of the people they meet are friendly. Indeed, one man who transpires to have been involuntarily involved in the genocide of Kurds, proves almost saintly in his concern. But the movie is principally about the relationship between grandmother and grandson, the boy's growing understanding of the world around him, and the way you confront the death of hope. It's a sensitive, stoical, compassionate film with a subtle feel for the detail of everyday life in this shattered land. (cited from review by Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
The producer of Son of Babylon, Isabelle Steed of Human Film took this project to the BABYLON workshop in 2008. BABYLON is an audiovisual development initiative that was founded by Gareth Jones, who is a member of the AHRC-funded Migrant and Diasporic Cinema Network and that assists migrant and diasporic filmmakers in getting their films into production and distribution.