al-Daradji hopes to shed light on Iraq's mass graves

The last time Iraqi helmer Mohammed al-Daradji made a film — his feature debut “Ahlaam” in 2006 — he was kidnapped and left for dead by insurgents as well as shot at and detained by American forces.

Now al-Daradji is back with his second feature, “Son of Babylon,” a project that proved less life-threatening if just as stressful.

The helmer is using the pic, which receives its European preem in the Berlinale’s Panorama sidebar, to launch a campaign to gain international recognition for the thousands of Iraqis still missing and unidentified in the 300 mass graves that have appeared around the country. The campaign, dubbed Iraq’s Missing, is intended to promote peace and reconciliation in the country.

The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights estimates that more than 1.5 million people have gone missing over the past 40 years in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime and that only 500,000 bodies have been recovered from the graves discovered so far.

Al-Daradji and his crew know the cost of that suffering first hand.

“I am hoping with our campaign that we can give answers to the families and people who have lost their loved ones including our own lead actress (Shezad Hussen), who lost her husband over 21 years ago and has never seen him again,” said Al-Daradji.

French sales agent Roissy Films is handling international sales on the pic, which was developed with the support of the U.K. Film Council.

Pic, a blackly comic road movie set during the first days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, follows an aging Iraqi Kurdish woman in search of her son, who years earlier was forcibly enlisted in the Iraqi army and then imprisoned by the Baath regime.

Al-Daradji is also developing his next feature, which will take up the story of the son and his experiences fighting in the first Gulf war and his time in jail.

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