The horrific toll on cast and crew during the making of Iraqi feature “Ahlaam” is told by its helmer, Mohamed Al-Daradji, in “War, Love, God & Madness.” More than merely a companion piece to the 2005 drama, docu provides a disturbing look at the situation in occupied Baghdad, when safety was illusory and kidnapping and torture became not merely a hypothetical fear but a reality. With its harrowing story of determination, this unique making-of could easily be a stand-alone fest item before obvious DVD extra packaging.
Al-Daradji returned to Iraq in 2003, aware of the difficulties but not quite prepared for the situation on the ground. Ministries couldn’t guarantee even basic security, electricity was sporadic and actresses were impossible to find. The crew found themselves in the middle of skirmishes — seen in especially tense footage — and only a renewed sense of his homeland’s possible future kept the helmer from turning back. Passed between militias, insurgents and U.S. troops, subjected to interrogation and torture, the filmmakers miraculously managed to save most of their stock. Visuals are often blurred, but given the dangers of filming, it’s miraculous they have so much.