|America is good at destroying things.
Can Iraq survive in spite of America?
Nowhere to Hide (2016)
Dir. Zaradasht Ahmed
Review By Greg Klymkiw
It's always worth thanking the United States of America for destroying Iraq thanks to their spurious war on terror that led to massive destruction, the mass murder of innocent people, the grotesque military occupation in the aftermath of America's foul actions, the eventual military pullout that led to far more instability in the country than ever existed before and, in general, the country's need to destroy and dominate under the guise of "freedom". Watching Zaradasht Ahmed's powerful, harrowing documentary Nowhere to Hide instills as much hatred towards the American Military Industrial Complex as it infuses one with love for the Iraqi people.
When filmmaker Ahmed gave a camera to Nori Sharif, a nurse in the Jalawla emergency hospital, the idea was simple: to help document life in Central Iraq after the withdrawal of American forces in 2011. What followed was simply, utterly extraordinary - five years of footage during one of the most devastating upheavals in the history of the country.
Nori not only proves to be a prodigious chronicler of this period, but he's clearly an intelligent, compassionate and well-humoured individual. God only knows how much footage director Ahmed had to work with since Nori's personality clearly reveals someone who would have had absolutely no problem getting people to open up.
When we first meet Nori on the job in the hospital, he asks a wounded patient, "Have you ever been injured before?" The patient replies, "No, never."
"Then you're not from Iraq."
Yes, it's funny as hell, but there's also a sad truth behind it.
Nori explains: "When I started my job it was about stitching and putting casts on simple fractures. But ever since the American invasion in 2003 and the later years, the nature of the injuries have changed. It has become a new reality for us to work in."
The reality of devastation.
Early on in the film, Nori admits: "My life is good. I have everything I need, but so many people I meet at the hospital had their lives destroyed by the war." Though some of the most fascinating footage in the film is of Nori himself, he maintains that showing the lives of others is, at least for him, far "more interesting than my life."
Since America's invasion, the area Nori lives in became "one of the most dangerous places in Iraq." It is in the very centre of the country and locals are heard to call it "the triangle of death". It is in the very centre of Iraq.
"The only thing you hear about the area is that the people who live here either killers are terrorists," says Nori, "but most of the people I know have had their lives destroyed by the war. Many people have died here along with their stories and neither the Media nor the authorities are interested in those people."
Well, not Nori.
He collects stories from a myriad of those who suffered because of America: a woman whose child died because she could not afford the medicine, a young woman who became so crippled by a bombing she can't leave her room ("the bed has become her only friend"), a family of seven widows and an army of orphans due to a suicide bomber who blew himself up during a funeral, a young man who's been paralyzed from the neck down for seven years - the parade of suffering seems to have no end.
"I try to document their reality as a witness," says Nori. "I wish to preserve their memory. For these people, the war entered their lives like a tornado, smashing all their dreams."
What's important to note is that even the mess of warring factions in Iraq is the fault of America. One man discusses how during the reign of Saddam Hussein, he was very poor, but in spite of this, he was able to build himself up step-by-step. Eventually, he was sold out by a friend to Al Qaida. For his troubles, he's now almost destitute with one leg missing and the other disabled.
This litany of suffering continues - year after year, but then things change. The internal struggles in the country become even more intense and the focus includes the life of Nori and his family as they have to cope with the madness that becomes Iraq.
And as the title suggest, there is truly no place to hide.
As Nori's city becomes too dangerous to live in, we follow him and his family as they escape, moving from one place to another until finally they are forced to settle in a refugee camp.
Nowhere to Hide might be one of the most important documents about the devastation of war you will ever see. For all the death, pain, sorrow and destruction, it is also a film infused with love and hope.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
Nowhere to Hide is playing theatrically:
Carlton Cinemas and Kingsway Theatre – Toronto
Village East Cinema - New York City
Laemmle Music Hall - Los Angeles
The Roxie - San Francisco
Vancity Theatre – Vancouver