Directed and written by Mohamed Al Daradji, Son of Babylon is a gritty realistic drama about a young boy Ahmed and his grandmothers journey across Iraq to try and find the boys father. Set in 2003 after the fall of Saddam, Ahmed's father was forced to join the Iraqi army in 1991 and hasn't returned for 12 years, fearing he's in prison or dead the two remaining family members travel 600 miles to try and find out what's happened to him.
The dusty landscape and abandoned ruins of Iraq are a perfect backdrop for this harrowing story, they travel from the mountains to the sands of Babylon hitchhiking rides from kind strangers along the way. The cinematography and scenery in the film are spectacular, they capture the beauty in war torn Iraq when they stumble across Prophet Ibrahims house and mosques along the way. It's easy to believe how isolated the people of Iraq feel as the only thing that has always stayed intact are the roads, it's now a barren land.
Yasser Talib who plays the young boy Ahmed is just brilliant at portraying an abandoned boy who's never known his father. He's comical at times but deals with the films serious nature very well. Shazada Hussein is the Grandmother in the film, she's very believable as a distressed mother in search of her son, her task of looking after her grandson in certain very dangerous parts of Iraq in a tough one. Shazada was actually the only woman to have testified in Saddam Husseins trial so this film must be very personal for her. Together the two characters form a great bond, they annoy each other easily but deep down there is much love and respect for one another.
Throughout the film the two characters keep travelling on buses that break down and are only met with disappointment when they arrive at the town they believe Ahmeds father to be in, but along the way they meet some good people who help and look after them. The Iraq we see in the film is a very different place to the one the media portray. There is even more death and destruction than is reported and the film shows Iraq from it's peoples point of view, not from an outsider looking in, in fact there are barely any troops featured in the film, only a few they have to pass on the road. The only music in the film is when Ahmed plays his flute and the singing of people they meet on their journey, I think this gives the film a more authentic and real feel, it's not glossed by a melancholy soundtrack to how the characters are feeling at any particular point in time.
The slow-paced film overall looks amazing, the acting is brilliant and the plot is strong, you really hope these characters find what they're looking for.
I saw a preview press screening of Son of Babylon as part of Raindance Film Festival.
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