In My Mother's Arms
Directed by Atia and Mohamed Al Daradji
While Western culture is routinely presented with televised images of war in the Middle East, we're rarely afforded a stark, behind-the-scenes look at the impact it has on their children. Parents are often the casualties of bombings, murders and kidnappings, leaving their offspring orphaned on the streets and vastly traumatized.
It is estimated that the most recent Iraq war has created some 800,000 orphans, an astonishing number given there are only 24 state-run orphanages to tend to these youngsters. In a country that lacks child protection laws, these orphanages are viewed as breeding grounds for crime, sexual and physical abuse, and worst of all, recruitment hotbeds for terrorist organisations.
The Al Daradji brothers showcase themes of hope, sadness and perseverance in their documentary, In My Mother's Arms, as they chronicle two-and-a-half years in the life of a private Baghdad orphanage run by Husham Al-Dhbe, a man devoted to protecting children from the streets. With no support from the government, he struggles to keep his orphanage afloat by begging for donations from local businesses, determined to provide a decent life and education for the children.
While the woes of Iraqi government funding are the primary focus, the children are the stars, with a spotlight shone upon Saif, Mohamed and Saleh, each with their own backstory on how they resultantly came under the care of Husham.
Masterfully, the Al Daradji brothers provide an analysis of the war, giving a coy nod to the American involvement in by bringing down Saddam, noting that the country is in a worse state than it was prior to their involvement.
Gritty, unpolished, amateurish footage generates feelings of immediacy, which are heightened particularly when the shock of a nearby bombing jolts a cameraman. The biggest disservice to this film is that the directors do not provide information on how viewers can contribute to Al-Dhbe's cause, placing the onus on the viewer to seek it out themselves.
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