YIDFF 2015 International Competition
Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)
An Interview with Abbas Fahdel (Director)

Heroic Courage of Ordinary People in Iraq

Q: Over ten years have passed since the invasion of Iraq by American troops in 2003. Why did you decide to create this film now?

AF: I created the film because what happened ten years ago has an effect on what’s happening in Iraq now. There is a reason I didn’t edit the images shot from 2002 to 2003. At the end of the film, my nephew, to whom I was very attached, was twelve years old at the time and was killed. This was incredibly painful and over the next ten years I couldn’t bring myself to look at the footage. However, in 2013 when exactly ten years had passed after the invasion by American troops, I thought that I needed to take another look at the images from that time after all, and that there had to be something historically and extremely meaningful reflected in the images. While actually watching the 120 hours of rough footage, I was convinced that I would be able to make a film. This is because within the rough footage a film already existed.

Q: How were you able to stay composed and shoot the film under the dangerous conditions of echoing gunfire after the invasion by the American forces?

AF: I was able to do this is because this film is considered to be the antithesis of the images we were all shown of Iraq following the invasion. When presenting war, it is prevalent throughout the world to show combat and bodies without a second thought. But I think a film is something that should film people. I didn’t want to bias the audience by doing the kind of things a snuff film does like showing bodies or parading violence. The subject of this film is the heroic courage of Iraqis and, more than anything else, the courage of ordinary people. For example, my brother-in-law accompanies his children every day to school and work. Each time they leave, there is no guarantee they will be able to return home alive, yet he repeats this every day. This does not apply only to Iraq, but people in any country or society that has fallen into dangerous conditions wake up in the morning and try to keep on living. I think being able to do this is mystifying, and at the same time, something very courageous.

Q: You’ve lived in France for many years. Are there times when you have utilized this point of view?

AF: When I left Iraq at age eighteen, my family saw me off and waved goodbye, but I left without looking back at them. I became an adult in France and it was then that I realized the magnitude of what I had loss. Now, I think it is precisely because I don’t know when my homeland was lost that I want to leave behind this image in some form. After being able to return home for the first time in fifteen years, everything I see is precious. I didn’t know if I would be able to come back again in the future, so I thought that I would shoot everything that I wanted to leave behind. In French, the words “regarder” (to look) and “garder” (to take and protect) are similar. To keep or hold onto the things you see. This was my approach in making the film.

Q: The situation in Iraq is becoming more chaotic. Are you going to direct your attention to Iraq in the future as well?

AF: The town my sister lives in is currently under the control of the Islamic State. The beginning of this change is incorporated and reflected in the film. When I consider the next ten years, I have no choice but to be extremely pessimistic. However, people are continuing to survive. When I return to Iraq, I somehow am always able to see a glimmer of hope. The tragedy that happened in my family has occurred or is occurring in nearly every family. Despite this, people are continuing to survive. They wake up every morning and are able to love each other. I believe that these things are integral.

(Compiled by Numazawa Zenichiro)

Interviewers: Numazawa Zenichiro, Kawashima Shoichiro / Interpreter: Fujiwara Toshi / Translator: Kat Simpson
Photography: Ishizawa Kana / Video: Miyata Mariko / 2015-10-11