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.”


Halloween treat: Meet the founder of Saudi Arabia’s go-to costume shop

Updated 26 October 2020

Halloween treat: Meet the founder of Saudi Arabia’s go-to costume shop

DUBAI: It is spooky season and Saudi entrepreneur Filwa Al-Hejailan, founder of Kingdom of Costumes, “the first online costume shop in Saudi Arabia,” is getting ready for the festivities. 

When speaking to Arab News, the entrepreneur said that the idea of Kingdom of Costumes came to her in 2013 when she was planning her sister’s 30th Alice in Wonderland-themed birthday party. 

“I found that there was a gap in the market. I realized we didn’t have enough costumes in Riyadh. So, I had to order them all from Amazon UK and US, and it was a stressful and nerve-wrecking process as they weren’t guaranteed to reach us in time,” Al-Hejailan told Arab News. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KingdomOfCostumesمملكةالتنكر (@kingdom_of_costumes) on

“When I searched the market, I also realized there weren’t any online costume shops in all of GCC except one in the UAE which sold mostly children’s costumes and hardly had a selection of adult costumes,” she added. 

Al-Hejailan launched her website, which sells outfits for children and adults, on her own in October 2013. Now, seven years later, she has a team of five employees — all women.

“I saw that women can do everything that is required,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

All sizes available!! جميع المقاسات متوفرة

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Kingdom of Costumes, which has now become the local supplier of party garments for Amazon Saudi Arabia, also sells wigs, masks, large angel wings, swimming mermaid tails, cinematic contact lenses, special effects makeup and other accessories.

For this season, Al-Hejailan said angel wings, contact lenses and costumes for Netflix’s “La Casa De Papel” series are the most ordered.   

The business might sound fun to many, but Al-Hejailan said it comes with a lot of challenges that got her thinking of quitting multiple times. 

“The biggest challenge I faced is shipping-related issues, such as cash on delivery and dealing with delays in shipping and customs which have negatively affected the time-sensitive nature of the business,” she said. “I noticed people are in a habit of buying costumes last minute. I’ve been through extremely nerve-wrecking moments for both myself and customers. 

“To be honest, I did consider quitting a few times because of the pressure, but then when I saw how much some customers – such as moms – appreciated and needed Kingdom of Costumes for their children, and how much joy it brought to children, teens and also adults, such rewarding feeling has encouraged me to keep going,” added Al-Hejailan. 

Even though the peak of the business is during Halloween, Al-Hejailan does not consider this a “seasonal business.” 

“It actually operates all year round and caters to many school events, birthdays and other events that are not related to Halloween,” she said.  

Besides Kingdom of Costumes, the entrepreneur also has a home baking business, which she started during the pandemic. She has a culinary degree from Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu.