Saturday, June 17, 2017

AFI Docs 2017 - Nowhere To Hide

Nowhere To Hide is a film about life in the dangerous "triangle of death" in central Iraq after the US pulls out. It is told from the perspective of Nori Sharif, a nurse in Jalawla. At first the film starts with him sharing the stories of people he knows whose lives were destroyed by the US war. But as Al Qaeda and ISIS begin to cause increasingly more havoc in the area, the story becomes more about how they are stuck in a war they don't really understand, unable to do anything to fix it and then later trying to escape it.

In the beginning, despite the carnage Sharif has already seen, he seems happy. His own family had been lucky to be relatively unaffected. He jokes and laughs. Even some of the people whose lives have been destroyed by the US war still manage to joke and laugh. As the film goes on, the smiles disappear and you can see the toll the war is taking on Sharif. You witness some of the carnage from his perspective, and I cried at multple points in the film. The one glimmer of hope throughout is the children - despite everything going on, the children still find joy is running, playing, dancing, listening to music. Of course they're not unaffected, and you wonder how this desensitization to extreme violence will affect them in the future, but to see the resilience of children is a reminder that the natural state of our spirit is joyful.

I think one of the more interesting things I learned was actually in the Q&A, in which director Zaradasht Ahmed said that at the beginnings the Iraqis were celebrating the arrival of the Americans. I always took that to be American propaganda. But then how from there, we did it all wrong, destabilizing the region and turning the Iraqis against us.

The film is a horrifying personal account of war. It will definitely make any American who supported the Iraq war think a lot harder about what we did over there. And it's also just a really well-told, touching story, particularly since it takes place over the course of several years.

It is a very sad film, but one I wish this film would become required watching for every American. I think it would create a lot more empathy, and make us think a lot harder about entering future conflicts.

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