After its succes at TIFF, IDFA and CPH:DOX, the documentary In My Mother’s Arms, a production of the Dutch/English company Human Film and Iraq Al-Rafidain, is to premiere in London as part of the MENA Film Festival this Thursday.
The film portrays Husham, a man running an orphanage in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous districts, as he tirelessly builds the hopes, dreams and prospects of 32 damaged children of war in a tiny dwelling with no help from the state or other organisations. When the landlord gives Husham and the boys just two weeks to vacate the premises, a desperate search ensues.
Against this backdrop, with funds running desperately low, the bittersweet dramas of childhood play out. We meet seven-year-old Saif who can only remember his dead mother’s name as he faces the taunts of other kids in constant playground battles; a teenager called Mohammed who struggles to balance academic life with his search for self-identity; and young Salah who fears he may never be able to go to school.
Brothers Atia and Mohamed Al-Daradji, who directed the film, explain how the idea for this documentary came as they finished their last production, Son of Babylon, in 2009.
“We were feeling bleak about the country’s future. As we watched the local news, profiling orphaned children living on the streets of Baghdad, we became haunted by the images of these lost children and decided to see what was being done to help them.
“Eventually we heard about Husham, who was running an orphanage in a 70 square meter house, all on his own. Over a nine month period we prepared, wrote, filmed and cried while gathering footage of what these boys and carers went through on a daily basis.”
The brothers, who have been working together before on projects such as the Oscar nominated Iraq: War, Love, God & Madness and the documentary Ahlaam, say that shooting the film was not easy. Somewhere in the process, however, they started to see something that gave them hope and the strenght to continue.
“By showing this group of children of different ages and backgrounds; Sunni, Shiite, Kurd and Turkuman, all living under one roof, we would be uncovering a small part of Iraq that symbolises its whole,” they say. ”If this orphanage of boys and carers are able to solve the myriad of problems that they face, then there is real hope that Iraq also can.”
The London premiere In My Mother’s Arms will take place Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 7pm at the Leighton House Museum. For more information please visit the MENA Film Festival website.