Director Abbas Fahdel brings Homeland—Iraq Year Zero to the Hop this Saturday, October 8, at 7 pm (Part One) and Sunday, October 9, at 4 pm (Part Two). The documentary, focusing on Fahdel’s family, is both a fun and touching look into daily family life in Iraq, and a sensitive study of the brutal effects of the Iraq War. Fahdel will attend both screenings and will take part in Q&A sessions after each.
Starting in 2002, Fahdel appropriately begins with his family, showing them gather for tea, watching television and joking with each other. But war is approaching. In a news broadcast, Saddam Hussein tells them that the Americans plan to invade, and the children and adults begin to prepare.
Among such a harrowing and painful topic, Homeland is full of laughter. The people in this film open up to Fahdel–as a friend, a relative or sometimes just an interested stranger. They trust him, and they tell him what they feel. I have only watched Part One, which focuses more on the days before the war, so that I can watch Part Two with you all on Sunday. This is a film built on community, requiring a community viewing. It feels less like a movie than a family visit. Fahdel has created a home-stay. With subtle and attentive camerawork, he shows us the most precious moments of family time, humanizing Iraqi people in a way that many fiction and non-fiction films, particularly coming from America, neglect.
The scope of this piece is baffling. It travels through the war, but it comes to us at a moment where the racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic feelings spawned by 9/11, and enhanced by the war, mingle with a misunderstanding of the last decade. Throughout this film’s production, dozens of films on the Iraq War have been made. Almost all of the ones we would have seen–The Hurt Locker (2008), Green Zone (2010) and most recently Eastwood’s highly criticized American Sniper (2014)–tell stories of American troops. They humanize them, forgiving them for a war that they did not cause. Meanwhile, Fahdel is at home filming his family prepare for no running running water, deciding if they should die in the countryside or at home.
It has been many decades since the Western world has faced a war that changes our day-to-day lives. Most people alive in America and Europe today don’t remember a time of rationing or bomb threats and displaced families. The Iraq War, along with wars in Afghanistan, Vietnam and other foreign conflicts, can feel like abstract notions seen on TV, only made real through out troops out there. It’s easy to forget that this life still exists for many worldwide; without personal accounts we run the risk of polarizing this culture and history, either believing the xenophobic headlines and demonizing an entire nation, or taking a moral high ground that victimizes their existence, instead of understanding and accepting the intricacies of Iraqi life, as we do our own.