The flavor of apricot ice cream, the smell of gunpowder, the sound of bombings—the Iraqi-French filmmaker Feurat Alani appeals to the senses in his portrayal of Iraq through memories of family visits. As an adult he spends a number of years there working as a journalist, and is confronted by terror and war. In his home he finds himself looking down the barrel of an American soldier’s gun, but he also reports on the U.S. Army as an embedded journalist.
In 20 animated shorts directed by Leonard Cohen, through minor events Alani’s personal history emerges, as well as that of his family and a blighted country. The unequal degree of detail in memories and impressions is reflected in the imagery of the animations. Faces aren’t entirely complete, and are sometimes made up of moustaches and eyebrows, or merely a gleaming smile. Form and content reinforce one another, and the animations produce added layers. When the nine-year-old Alani visits his Iraqi family for the first time, Saddam Hussein literally hangs like a threatening cloud above an otherwise happy life. In spite of everything, there’s room for love, beauty, humor and above all humanity.
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