Francesca Mannocchi, Alessio Romenzi • Directors
“Am I doing anything to improve this situation?”
by Kaleem Aftab
- VENICE 2018: We chatted to award-winning Italian journalists Francesca Mannocchi and Alessio Romenzi, whose film ISIS, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul is playing out of competition
Francesca Mannocchi and Alessio Romenzi are award-winning Italian journalists who have spent years covering the wars in Iraq and Syria. Their film ISIS, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul [+see also:
interview: Francesca Mannocchi, Alessi…
film profile] is playing out of competition at the Venice Film Festival. They explain why the world should be focusing its attention on the children of the war in the aftermath of the “liberation” of Mosul.
Cineuropa: Why did you want to focus on the children in Mosul?
Francesca Mannocchi: We were covering the offensive in Mosul as journalists and talking to our interpreter. The question came up of what would happen to everyone associated with ISIS after the war – especially the children. The interpreter said that the Iraqi Army would probably try to kill as many of them as possible. This raised a question within us, and that is why we decided that we wanted to go a little bit deeper.
What problems did you discover?
FM: There isn’t any kind of psychological support or de-radicalisation programme available for these families, and they are abandoned, just like they were in the past. What I think is a real oversight on the part of the international community is that it’s the same story as we have seen in the past in other cities “liberated” in Iraq. There was a group that was helping the Americans fight, and there were 400 of them at the time; they then became the Islamic State and grew to 30,000, and so we wanted to open up the question: what will become of tomorrow? It’s a question that we have been pondering for a year and a half. Are we raising the terrorists of tomorrow?
The cinematography is beautiful a lot of the time, which seems odd, given that you are showing the destruction of a city. Is that dangerous?
Alessio Romenzi: I don’t think it is dangerous, and I think that actually creating and having something attractive in your frame helps the viewer to focus more on what you are doing and on what is in front of you. I think you create the opposite effect; the audience will look much more intently than before.
In the film, you treat the children on both sides of the war in the same way. What is important is that they are children – not who they fought for, or their ideology. Given that you challenge audiences’ prejudices, was it hard to leave your own prejudice behind?
FM: I don’t have any prejudices, really. The most important interviews we did, for me at least, were the ones with those people who were still involved in the ISIS ideology. It was challenging for me to be in front of some guy who says, “I want to kill you, and I want to kill Europeans and to keep the idea of martyrdom alive in Europe, because it’s better to attack in Europe than for 100 people to die in the Middle East.” It wasn’t easy at all to have no reaction to that.
That’s one of the first interviews in the film.
FM: That has a strong impact and raises a lot of questions in our minds. In a sense, our job is to open minds – not only those of the people who are watching the movie, but also our own. So when we return home to Europe, we can question what we are doing wrong in depicting and listening to this reality. We can ask ourselves, “Am I doing anything to improve the situation?”
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