Coming to NYC’s Maysles Cinema for its US theatrical premiere beginning this Monday, October 8: IN MY MOTHER’S ARMS
Atea Al-Daradji and Mohamed Al-Daradji’s intimate look at an Iraqi orphanage premiered at Toronto last year. It went on to screen at CPH:DOX, Thessaloniki Doc, San Francisco, Abu Dhabi, and Planete Doc Review.
The Al-Daradji brothers spend over two years following Husham, a man of modest means who has taken on the role of surrogate father to a group of more than thirty young orphans in Baghdad. All too aware of the dangers facing children on the streets – potential recruits into criminal or terrorist groups – or in the few state-sponsored institutions – potential victims of violence and sexual abuse – Husham sets up a de facto orphanage , renting a small house to provide shelter and safety for war orphans. Some of his charges are specifically singled out – unsurprisingly, because of the traumas that they have experienced, Sallah remains mute, Saif has anger issues, and Mohammed struggles with school though he is surprisingly on a competitive diving team. Spread thin, Husham, who already finds it hard to secure sufficient help or financing for his orphanage, soon faces imminent eviction. The film presents the orphanage in an appropriately raw and gritty light, allowing the viewer to become immersed in the children’s experiences, and generating undeniable empathy for Husham. Still, his task is decidedly Sisyphean – hanging over the film is the knowledge that, while his efforts are heartfelt, they are extremely limited – making this less a portrait of an inspirational change maker, and more an alarm calling for larger efforts to provide better lives to the thousands a single man cannot save.