Iraqi filmmaker blurs the boundaries of real and reel with compelling ‘behind the scenes’ story


Iraqi filmmaker Mohammed Al Daradji brought a compelling new cinema experience to Dubai with the World Premiere of his Iraq: War, Love, God and Madness, at the third edition of the Gulf Film Festival, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

The re-edited version of the film opened to critical applause at the festival, and in a free-wheeling chat with the audience, Al Daradji said the film was a cathartic experience for him to rediscover himself and clear his mind.

Screening in the Lights category of the festival, Iraq: War, Love, God and Madness charts the journey of Al Daradji to rediscover his country, which is ravaged by 30 years of dictatorship, war and occupation. The movie is a personal battle to find peace within for the youngster, who had several close calls with mortal danger while filming in the country.

Essentially, Iraq: War, Love, God and Madness is about the behind the scenes of Al Daradji’s first feature film, Ahlaam, shot fully in Iraq using an Iraqi crew and cast. He fights several battles – with the bureaucracy, militants and the US army – in completing it. During the course, Al Daradji and his crew are kidnapped and threatened with death.

On being released by his captives, he returns only to shoot the rest of Ahlaam, which went on to win several honours for him and his cast, including an award at the Gulf Film Festival. Al Daradji told the audience that in revisiting the making of his first feature, he learnt several lessons – the most important being not to be naïve when it comes to filming in Iraq.

He subsequently shot Son of Babylon, which is also being screened at Gulf Film Festival. “By comparison, Son of Babylon was a more safe experience. There were helicopters hovering around us and a bomb would go off somewhere close but overall, the shooting was in a secure environment.”

Son of Babylon will be screened on Sunday, 9.15 pm at Grand Cinema 5 of Dubai Festival City.

The Gulf Film Festival will be held until April 14 and is supported by the Dubai Culture and is held in association with Dubai Studio City. For more information, please visit the Festival website:


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