Iraqi Odyssey, a family chronicle about a shattered dream
by Giorgia Del Don
- Samir, one of the most versatile personalities of Swiss cinema, presents his latest documentary (in 3D), Iraqi Odyssey at the Toronto Festival
Samir, the Swiss-Iraqi director and producer known for his unique movies which range from fiction to documentary to experimental cinema, presents the world premiere of Iraqi Odyssey [+see also:
film profile] this year at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFFDocs); a portrait of his extraordinary family and a mirror image of an entire nation.
Samir’s latest movie once again examines the history of his native country, Iraq, but this time, rather than focusing on a specific subject, as was the case for the multi-award-winning Forget Baghdad, it has the ambitious objective of representing the fate of an entire people, too often misunderstood, rejected, and destroyed by a religious extremism that seems to have devoured its soul. Through the incredible and thrilling history of his family scattered across the world (Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Sydney, Los Angeles, Buffalo, London, Paris, Moscow and Zurich), Samir uncovers another face of Iraq, that is both progressive and proud of its history. “As a director I’ve finally realised that my family history represents an entire generation and an entire project: the project of modernity”, explains the director. Once again Samir builds on his origins, on his knowledge of both east and west, on his 360 degree vision of the world, and he encourages us to overcome our fears that are expressed through a series of reassuring stereotypes that are however, extremely dangerous.
Iraqi Odyssey seeks to bridge the gap that has gradually appeared between western culture and the Arab world by putting into perspective a completely forgotten history, made up of Arab roots, technological progress and democracy. Like an entomologist of sorts Samir wants to preserve, before it’s too late, the broken dreams of modernity of an entire people. Iraqi Odyssey raises a fundamental question: what has happened to the desire for a rebirth of the Arab world, the profound need to achieve a modern and just society? What has happened to the anger and power that lived in the eyes of his relatives ready to fight with all of their strength for a secular society? If we cannot answer these questions, what we can do instead is to try to rebuild their dream.
Through the director’s family history of emigration which extends over half a century, Iraqi Odyssey pays a poignant tribute to a whole people that instead of witnessing the triumph of its ideals of freedom must surrender to a sometimes terrifying reality, made up of dictatorships, war and foreign occupation. Although his relatives succeeded, thanks to their culture and their progressive mentality, to perfectly integrate into their adopted country and to build the life they wanted, the frustration caused by having to give up their country will be with them forever. Samir takes each life, the feelings and memories of the survivors of a period that was both fascinating and difficult, in order to (re)create the history of a humble and extraordinary Iraq. It’s definitely an ambitious project but it’s created with such sincerity and depth that it almost becomes true.
Iraqi Odyssey is sold worldwide by Autlook Filmsales.
(Translated from Italian)