Iraq’s Mohamed Al-Daradji battles inner demons through film

Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Dharadji whose film 'The Journey', is Iraq's entry for the Oscar's Foreign Film entries, poses for a photo in West Hollywood, California on November 27, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2018

Iraq’s Mohamed Al-Daradji battles inner demons through film

  • The film transports viewers to 2006 — five minutes before Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein died by hanging at dawn, Daradji says — and introduces a female suicide bomber planning an attack
  • The first film to be released commercially in Iraq in 27 years, “The Journey” has been selected as Iraq’s official contender for the upcoming Oscars

LOS ANGELES: The Iraq War may have ended in 2011, but for filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji, the conflict that tore his country apart remains very much part of his everyday life.
“You could say that my movies are a way of coping with the (aftermath) of the war,” the 40-year-old told AFP in Los Angeles this week as he discussed his latest drama, “The Journey.”
“To me, the people of Iraq have not grieved, they have not come to terms with what happened... and I felt that maybe this is how my film can help and allow people to see themselves on the big screen.”
The film transports viewers to 2006 — five minutes before Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein died by hanging at dawn, Daradji says — and introduces a female suicide bomber planning an attack during the reopening of the Baghdad train station.
Within the confines of the station, where the drama unfolds, Daradji relays Iraq’s pain and suffering through various narratives — from the distraught child bride in a wedding dress, to street children surviving by selling flowers and polishing shoes and a musician returning to normal life after 22 years in a POW camp.
Added to the mix are the American soldiers patrolling the station and barking orders,their humanity poking through as one sings a lullaby to his child back home on the phone.
The first film to be released commercially in Iraq in 27 years, “The Journey” has been selected as Iraq’s official contender for the upcoming Oscars in the foreign-language category.
It will be Daradji’s third time representing his country at the Oscars, following “Ahlaam” in 2007 and “Son of Babylon” in 2010.

Like Daradji’s four other features, “The Journey” examines the war’s consequences, this time through the eyes of the female protagonist as she comes to terms with the horrible act she is about to commit.
Daradji said he was inspired to make the lead character a woman after reading an article about a 17-year-old Iraqi girl arrested with a bomb strapped to her waist.
“I began to make some research and found out there were more than 200 female suicide bombers in Iraq,” he said.
His storyline developed further after he eventually was allowed to meet with a female prisoner captured by the Iraqi army.
“I looked at her and she was a human being, she was beautiful and so smart,” he said. “And the question that I raise through ‘The Journey’ is whether there is redemption (for suicide bombers), whether they can get back the humanity that they lost.”
He said his next movie, “Bird of Paradise,” will also feature a woman as the central character, as well as children.
“When I think back to my childhood, there was no one who could listen to me and maybe that’s why I use children in my films and women also,” he said. “To give them a voice.”
As with all his features so far, Daradji said his latest project will again touch on Iraq’s turbulent history.
“In a funny way, I think all Iraqis suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)... and through my films I am shouting, I am letting out my anger, my frustration,” Daradji said.
“I made ‘The Journey’ for selfish reasons,” he added. “In a way, it helped me come to terms with myself.
“You can call it a form of therapy.”


Georges Chakra politicizes couture in an ode to Lebanon

Georges Chakra continuously unveils his aesthetic concepts through his couture shows during fashion weeks. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2020

Georges Chakra politicizes couture in an ode to Lebanon

  • The 47-piece offering was an extravagant ode to the Beirut-born designer’s home country of Lebanon, where nation-wide protests have been ongoing for the past couple of months

PARIS: Lebanese Georges Chakra presented his Spring 2020 couture collection at Paris’ Petit Palace on Monday. The 47-piece offering was an extravagant ode to the Beirut-born designer’s home country of Lebanon, where nation-wide protests have been ongoing for the past couple of months.

Lebanese Georges Chakra presented his Spring 2020 couture collection at Paris’ Petit Palace. (Supplied)

Placed on each of the guest’s seats along with the show notes was a synthetic white rose accompanied by a note that read “un rose pour la liberte,” which translates to “one rose for freedom.”

Placed on each of the guest’s seats along with the show notes was a synthetic white rose which read “one rose for freedom.” (Supplied)

The message? Fashion is an act of resistance. Chakra wanted to create the real-life looks that reflected the sophisticated and rebellious nature of Lebanese women. These included a show-stopping lineup of striking eveningwear in a burst of white, hot pink and blue color palettes.

Chakra’s brand signature combines elaborate and intricate back details coupled with modern and bold fabrics. (Supplied)

The glimmer-creating Japanese app Kirakira, which turns anything sparkly into a disco ball–like reflection of shine and shimmer, was the preferred medium for capturing Chakra’s runway today — and rightly so. There were plenty of crystal and sequin embellished pieces on the runway that will surely hit the red carpet soon. 

There were plenty of crystal and sequin embellished pieces on the runway that will surely hit the red carpet soon. (Supplied)

Standout looks included a pink, strapless satin duchesse dress that was short at the front and long at the back and boasted a violet floral print, an asymmetrical gown that featured dashes of sequins in varying hues of green, an icy blue sheath dress with an organza train and a hand-painted blue-grey gazar dress with a fan shaped neckline.

Chakra wanted to create the real-life looks that reflected the sophisticated and rebellious nature of Lebanese women. (Supplied)

You can picture his longtime client US actress Janina Gavankar looking devastating on the red carpet wearing the bright pink slit dress with a criss-cross neckline and long train. Or his new client, actress Nina Kiri, who wore one of his creations to the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 20, in the strapless, aquamarine satin dress with a high slit.

Chakra began his work in a war-clad Beirut, after he graduated from Canada. (Supplied)

As is customary, the last look was the bridal look. The off-the-shoulder wedding dress was accessorized with a glittering emerald and diamond necklace made by Lebanese jeweler Fawaz Gruosi. In addition to the striking sartorial lineup, the necklace will also be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to Beirut’s Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon and scholarships at the Ecole Saint Vincent de Paul.