Iraqi film director deals with the issue of dictatorship

A scene from the movie "Hay El-Fazzaat". [File / Mawtani]

A scene from the movie "Hay El-Fazzaat". [File / Mawtani]

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Kurdish Iraqi director Hassan Ali Mahmoud participated in Beirut's Film Festival, which ended October 13th, with his movie "Hay El-Fazzaat". The film previously won an award as the second best feature film at the Gulf Film Festival.

The story sheds the light on dictatorships through a touching story and expressive photography.

Mawtani met with Mahmoud after the film was shown at the festival.

Mawtani: How did you come up with the plot of the movie?

Hassan Ali Mahmoud: The plot of the movie "Hay El-Fazzaat" was adapted from a novel by Sherzad Hassan in the late eighties, specifically after the Iran-Iraq war. He wrote it after seeing thousands of dead bodies on the borders being eaten by the crows. My movie, for which the script was written by Sherzad, begins with a scene showing an Iraqi recruit killing his friend after accusing him of treason. He leaves his dead body for the crows to devour.

Mawtani: What does your movie symbolize?

Mahmoud: "Hay El-Fazzaat" is a symbolic story that represents all the dictatorships in the world, especially in our Arab region. It bears a symbolic reading into the latest events in our region, and the rise of the people asking for their freedom.

The film tells the story of a flock of crows that attacks the agricultural land of a rich feudal man. In order to keep them away from his land, after he had planted it with rice, he sets up a large number of scarecrows made of cloth. However, the crows continue to hover over his land. At that time, the feudal man begins to use the village children as live scarecrows to keep the crows away from his field and to protect his crop without any consideration of the price his village and its children were paying.

Mawtani: Who plays the main characters of the movie?

Mahmoud: They are played by a group of actors led by Walid Maarouf Jaru, Abdullah Shawkat, Sulaf Kared and Taha Aghajan.

Mawtani: What were you trying to say through the children?

Mahmoud: They are the victims who will turn into future soldiers, and later on become the victims of dictatorship.

Mawtani: What were you trying to say about dictatorship?

Mahmoud: I wanted to say that wherever there is dictatorship in the world, people turn into scarecrows. More importantly, I wanted to deliver a message that says that one day these scarecrows will rise to ask for their rights, even though they are only scarecrows. We have already witnessed things in this regard as we recently saw in Arab countries the form of protests, revolutions, and government and presidential change. I believe that the scenes in my movie have shown all of that.

Mawtani: It seems as if you predicted all of these events considering that you made your movie in 2010.

Mahmoud: This is true. I finished filming it before the Arab revolutions began. When I showed it in Cairo one month before the revolution in Egypt, the newspapers wrote that "Hay El-Fazzaat" represents the condition of the Arab people in the region.

Mawtani: Do you think it is necessary for Iraqi cinema to move away from war to brighter subjects?

Mahmoud: We all wish that the Iraqi society will come out of this psychological crisis that has impacted it for many years of war. However, you cannot get rid of the psychological pressures of 40 years in a few days or years. We need more time so that we can caution the coming generation about such issues. As filmmakers, we have a very big responsibility to caution politicians and society so that dictatorship is never repeated again in Iraq.

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  • READER COMMENTS

    رضوان علي

    2011-11-26

    The future of Iraqi cinema is no longer promising. In fact, we cannot remain dependent on the legacy of outdated Iraqi cinema productions. The old Iraqi cinema was full of great achievements, thanks to the contributions of many Iraqi leading artists. The new actors have not managed to show similar performances yet. This is attributable to the lack of great artists, at the present time, who are able develop the Iraqi cinema. Meanwhile, the world is witnessing a lot of developments in the field of film production, while Iraqi cinema is totally out of business. This has led to the big difference between the foreign artistic shows that we see on satellite channels and the works of Iraq. The Iraqi productions are rather negligible, apart from a few works made by some young people who are aspiring to synergize their efforts to revive the Iraqi cinema. Although these attempts are still limited, the youth are trying to revive cinema and film production again. In fact, the tragic events that took place in Iraq, which included successive wars, a surge of terrorism and the subsequent instability that lasted many years, have definitely affected the development of Iraqi cinema. Such events brought about today's recession, which hopefully will not last for a long time.

  • قاصد محمد

    2011-11-26

    Today, the Iraqi cinema is going through a lot of difficulties that have led to the significant decline of this sector, in terms of production and filmmaking. Indeed, Iraqi cinema has become almost unable to continue its productions and keep pace with development in the film industry that the Arab world and especially Egypt achieved. The latter has made great strides in this field. Meanwhile, the Iraqi cinema did not manage to produce any single movie that is worth mentioning during the past years, especially in light of the circumstances experienced by our country. These circumstances have affected the Iraqi cinema as well as other fields. Indeed, the cinema of Iraq is going through a rough period at the present time. However, one should not ignore the fact that Iraq had been very active in production and filmmaking. Indeed, Iraq has contributed much to the Arab cinematic legacy. We are very proud of such Iraqi movies as “Building 13,” “Six out of Six” and “The Major Issue,” which represent the finest movies of Iraq.

  • ابو نصر

    2011-11-23

    The Iraqi directors concentrate on dictatorship, especially in Iraq, because it is one of the countries that have suffered from this ugly phenomenon a great deal. The ruler stayed in his seat of power, which was the cause of the destruction of the country, and the unitary way which they followed to rule the country and the Iraqi people for a long time. It is considered to be the worst period, which was the period of the last regime of Saddam, when they tightened freedom. The citizens had no role and could not express their opinions or criticize, because if they did so, they would be killed. That is why the Iraqi director finds great topics to present which reflect the situation of the country and the effect of dictatorship in Iraq, as it is the reason for everything that happened in Iraq. So, such acts that were presented in plays or short movies had great benefits in directing a message to the people to choose better and not to give a chance for dictatorship to return. It is also a message for all the politicians who are leading the country and trying to control it, trying to return to the previous era, in order to understand the lesson and to keep the country from suffering. It lets them know that it has come from the past, and Iraq today is a free country that holds elections and the people are free to vote. It also shows that anyone who works for dictatorship can fail.

  • محمد العماري

    2011-11-13

    The Iraqi Kurdish director Hassan Ali Mahmoud won the International Cinema Festival which was held in the Lebanese capital Beirut through his narrative movie, which he has directed during this period in spite of the hard conditions that faced him. He challenged the impossible in order to spread his message of humanity through directing his movie, which is named “Hay Al Faza’at”. It deserved to win the second prize in this festival for directing his movie. The movie was the center of attention of a lot of those who are interested in cinema acts that concentrate on the suffering of the people. Among them are the Iraqi people, who suffered from pain due to the injustice that faced them because of the rulers through their dictatorial rules, which restricted the freedom of the people. This was shown through the emotional scenes which he prepared; they are created from the lives of the Iraqis, as well as the idea of the movie, which is considered to be a symbol of all the acts of the dictatorial rulers, who firmly rule over all the countries, especially the Arabian region. This region suffers from different kinds of injustice and oppression, and restricting freedom and not achieving justice between the Iraqis from different segments and classes. This led to increasing the emotions of depression and pain among all the Iraqis, who suffer from the treatment of their rulers and not doing their duty to achieve the simplest services for their people. This led to creating a big gap between the ruler and the ruled, because of the injustice and pain. A lot of psychological denial operations happened between the people and the rulers, as described in the movie that was directed by the Iraqi artist who was able to embody this situation through his movie, which received the admiration of the artists and audience who watched it.

  • عارف محمد

    2011-11-12

    I praise the effort exerted by the Kurdish director Hassan Ali Mahmoud for his distinctive work. It shows all the people the suffering of the Iraqi people, through highlighting the seriousness of practicing dictatorship against the community’s people and its impact on the progress and prosperity of the country.

  • رمزي وعد سليم

    2011-11-10

    I think that the Iraqi innovative director Hassan Ali Mahmoud has been able through his film “Hay Al-Fazaat,” i.e. “The City of Scarecrows,” to convey the true image of Arab societies in general and their suffering throughout the past decades of dictatorships which had been ruling the Arab countries. He could also portray through the idea of the film what Arab peoples and even all the peoples of the world have been suffering in terms of dictatorial policies which are present in many countries, and whose rulers only care about their own interests by trying to maintain their positions of power at the expense of their people’s needs and requirements. Those people greatly suffered from persecution and neglect for years. In fact, the Iraqi filmmaker Hassan Ali Mahmoud was able to convey this image, which is lived all over the world, and he also managed to spread love, peace and security, as well as keeping away from and eradicating these dictatorships.

  • huseen

    2011-11-10

    However long it may last, a dictatorship will one day end, and people will get their freedom and enjoy the wealth they were deprived of, due to the oppression of these regimes towards their peoples. These peoples are no longer able to endure these dictatorial regimes, which have deprived their citizens of their basic legitimate rights to lead a decent life filled with optimism and looking to the future with satisfaction and hope. This is something that has deserted people for a long time. As far as I am concerned, I think that this artistic work has contributed to exposing dictatorship and authoritarian people and those who suck the blood of innocent people in order to achieve their personal interests. This work has achieved a sparkling success, as it has depicted dictatorship as it really is. The idea is inspired by the practices exercised by the dictatorial regimes against their people. They are among the negative practices that our creative and wonderful director tried to depict in this artistic work, which was acclaimed by everyone at the Beirut International Film Festival. Al-Faza'at, i.e. “The City of Scarecrows,” had a significant impact on the hearts of all those who followed this great artistic work. We are really proud of it and of the way it was presented by the director. This idea is not the product of imagination, but it is the outcome of the bitter reality experienced by many people on Earth because of the oppressive dictatorships. We got rid of many of these dictatorships, thanks to the willingness of the people that cannot be defeated by dictatorships, no matter how long they may remain. This is what was conveyed by the director in his work.

  • عباس حبيب

    2011-11-9

    Iraqi film directors must portray all the characters quite accurately and look for people who are interested in this issue. The latter should know this idea very well and perform the role professionally. Thus, I personally think that Iraqi directors are able to carry out this work through making TV shows, namely TV programs, and succeed easily, given that the dictators in our Arab world are many, and particularly in Iraq. In fact, directors must consider the important issue of the script, how it should be, when they should make changes and how the portrayed and special characters will perform gestures and the major roles. In fact, Iraqi art is one of the most wonderful arts ever. Besides, Iraqi actors are able to perform all kind of roles with much talent. Thus, I believe that Iraqi directors are mostly interested in this issue and those matters. In addition, dictatorships have become one of the clearest phenomena for the Arab as well as the Iraqi public opinion. Thus, I personally call on the Iraqi directors to care just for the script in the first place, through which they could assess and excel in this kind of art. In fact, there are a lot of well-known Iraqi directors who have created good quality works of Iraqi art. As far as I am concerned, if the Iraqi directors have directed just one work that deals with dictatorships, the latter would certainly be the first in the Arab world, given that Iraqis have collected a lot of ideas about dictators and their acts. Indeed, these people are those who usually work on sabotaging countries. The Arab nation is currently going through a crisis. In fact, I do not like to talk about the esteemed Arab leaders, but about those who are like Qaddafi, Assad, Nouri Al Maliki and others who are hostile towards the Arab Muslim Nation. Indeed, dictators work on sucking the blood of the sons of their nations, but they forget that God is fair and they may receive the same destiny soon, given that they are harming people. God willing, we will get rid of all damned dictators and convey our voice to the entire world through the artistic works, which are the closest things to everyone. As far as I am concerned, were it not for the art, Arabs would never become united, since artists communicate through festivals and their artistic works. Finally, I pray to God from the bottom of my heart to grant them success, hoping that they will be first in the near future, God the Almighty willing.

  • ابو سارة

    2011-11-9

    Iraqi art has always been distinguished with freedom and the ability to express the ideas and current events and developments. Each director has his own way of depicting the dictatorship according to his personal views, because there are many thoughts that might occur to the mind of the director who introduces works such as movies and TV series, or plays about dictatorship, especially during the month of Ramadan. This year, most of the TV series spoke about the aggression, persecution, violence and criminality that reigned over the Iraqis. Hence, dictatorship is different, according to the views of the directors. Hence, the success of any director depends on his success in conveying his message to the audience and attracting them to follow and watch his works. When this happens, dictatorship can be depicted and explained, along with shedding light on the suffering of the citizens, who are tortured, persecuted and oppressed against their will. Furthermore, the TV series focus on the ways of exploiting the people into doing what they do not want to do, in order to save their lives, honor or reputation. Many other aspects of the dictatorship and its arbitrary and criminal system are also introduced and linked with terrorism, which kills many Iraqis. Hence, we wish all success to the Iraqi director in conveying the truth of what is going on the land of Iraq in his artistic way, which proves his success and reflects the reality through the screen to entertain the Iraqi audience.

  • طلعت بو حسن

    2011-11-6

    Iraq suffered from a dictatorial regime for about four decades. Art is still incapable of picturing and expressing the ugliness and miseries that took place. Yet, it is very nice and exceptional that an Iraqi director managed to do this. The most important aspect is the credibility of the movie, the fineness of its story and its ability to portray such a bitter time of the Iraqi life in all dimensions. It is impressive that the director had the freedom to display all the ambiguities, facts and the revelation of the hidden facts that were kept secret for years, despite the fear and threats, which must have been very difficult. Even though there are many young directors who have non-traditional artistic visions, yet as I said, there are threats that directors or a movie crew can face, because there are entities that want to obscure the bad history of this time and its offenders.