Koutaiba Al-Janabi’s LEAVING BAGHDAD is an intimate, unpolished road movie in which we accompany a gentle cameraman, Sadik (Sadik Al- Attar) on his journey from Iraq to London. The story unfolds slowly and steadily as the troubled immigrant Sadik makes his escape, carrying with him fake passports, a few personal possessions, and a permanent burden of guilt and resentment.
Sadik’s journey is underscored by traditional Iraqi maqam and naturalistic ambient noise: throbbing traffic and tolling bells mingle with Sadik’s soft, emotional voice as he reads from his letters to his estranged son Samir, a rebel Communist whose political leanings led to Sadik’s ejection from Saddam Hussein’s entourage. Sadik, a loyal Ba’ath party member, used to be Saddam Hussein’s personal cameraman, and struggles to reconcile his memories of a warm and generous leader with the atrocities he was employed to record. The deeply absorbing and empathetic documentary style gradually fractures as Sadik’s flashbacks to (genuine) footage of torture and execution become more frequent and disturbing. Sadik’s paranoia proves founded, and the trademarks of a classic thriller impose as we begin to cut away to a secret policeman who is pursuing him across Budapest.
… a vulnerable illegal immigrant, estranged from society, from his own country and from his own family …
LEAVING BAGHDAD was a cathartic work for Al-Janabi, who made the film in honour and memory of his own father who was killed in similar circumstances. The strength of the piece lies in its honest depiction of a vulnerable illegal immigrant, estranged from society, from his own country and from his own family.
LEAVING BAGHDAD won the Raindance Award at the British Independent Awards ceremony on 4th December 2011. The Independent Film Trust (IFT) and the Cambridge Film and Media Academy (CAMFA) are organising a free screening which will be followed by a discussion led by a panel including the film’s director Koutaiba Al-Janabi and producer Hanna Heffner, together with IFT chairman Neil McCartney plus Glen Rangwala, Fellow in Social and Political Sciences at Trinity College, and Muthanna Al-Qadi, the Middle East Affairs Editor for the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds.
LEAVING BAGHDAD screens on 12th March 2013 at The Auditorium, Cripps Court, Magdalene College, Cambridge.
This screening is being organised by McCartney Media as part of the GWF Ambassador Programme.
Join the Facebook event here.