Al Daradji Middle East Filmmaker of the Year

Abu Dhabi - Iraqi film director Mohamed Al Daradji was chosen for Variety’s coveted Middle East Filmmaker of the Year Award, at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) on Tuesday evening.


Silvia Radan

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Published: Wed 20 Oct 2010, 9:01 AM

Last updated: Mon 11 Oct 2021, 5:21 PM

“We wanted to honour Mohamed Al Daradji this year, not because he is a great Middle Eastern filmmaker, but because he is simply a great filmmaker, who happens to be from this region,” said Tim Gray, the editor of Variety.

The filmmaker, a hit with both the audience and film critics at the festival last year, missed this year’s ADFF competition as his movie was not quite completed in time, but In My Mother’s Arms is still being screened in the festival, as a work in progress, in honour of his work.

Back on the streets of Baghdad, Mohammed and his brother Atia Al Daradji filmed what promises to be another heartbreaking cinematic gem from the war-torn cradle of civilisation.

His background

In My Mother’s Arms follows several children who live and study in the same room in a small rented house.

They are forgotten children whose parents have been killed or kidnapped (something of a norm in present day Baghdad) and who have no one to support them but Husham, himself a student, who works tirelessly to protect the boys from the life threatening dangers of the city.

The flat’s landlord, though, demands that they vacate the house, so their only sanctuary is about to be lost.This is the third film shot by Al Daradji in Iraq. In 2009 he did Son of Babylon, a touching story of a Kurdish grandmother travelling across Iraq with her grandson to find her son — the boy’s father — who went missing as a soldier during the first Gulf war.

After its world premiere here last year, the film catapulted Daradji onto the world stage, picked up by numerous international festivals and hassince been chosen as Iraq’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

The filmmaker was brought up in Baghdad, where he studied theatre direction until he fled to the Netherlands in 1995.

He worked as a cameraman before studying cinematography in the UK, quickly making a name for himself with a number of short films and documentaries.

In 2005, Al-Daradji impressed critics with his debut feature Ahlaam, a shocking portrayal of life in wartime Baghdad, which was selected by dozens of film festivals around the world. Shot on location in 2003, the film’s production was marred by frequent power cuts, meagre provisions and security concerns.

Crew face attacks

During the shoot, Al Daradji and his crew suffered attacks by insurgents and spent days held by the US Army.

Al Daradji’s second feature film was the documentary War, Love, God and Madness (2008), which was shot during the making of Ahlaam, followed by the 2009 Son of Babylon.‘Variety described Al Daradji as “the hardest working filmmaker in the region” and praised his riveting portrayals of life in post-Saddam Iraq, a subject he has explored in both documentary and narrative work.

Grant from ADFF

“It was after showing Son of Babylon at the Festival in Abu Dhabi last year that it got picked up by Sundance. Abu Dhabi supported the film since it was just a glint in my eye, and I have received funding from SANAD for both my new projects, which is invaluable to a filmmaker like me working in extremely adverse circumstances,” said Al-Daradji.

Indeed, his latest documentary In My Mother’s Arms, a UK and UAE co-production, received a development grant from the ADFF’s newly launched SANAD film fund.

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