Bahman Ghobadi's "Marooned in Iraq" proves a couple of things. One, that people will seek out humor and music, inspite of (because of?) everyday tragedies and horrors. Two, the big-mustache look rocks. May the thought of a naked philtrum never cross my mind. If you don't know what "philtrum" means, look it up. It's a good word.
Great road-trip films affect us in ways that may not be obvious at first. Like "Easy Rider". (My first viewing of that film - at the age of 18, in college, under influence, naturally - was completely different from subsequent viewings.) And the bad road-trip films? We have met the "oil and water" road-trip partners, yawned through the montage set to an 80s-ballad and received the Grand Lesson in Love And Acceptance from dozens of road-trip movies. "Marooned in Iraq" gives us none of those.
Set in the early '90s and in the Iranian-Kurdistan region, it features two musician-brothers who accompany their musician-father on a trip into Iraq to find his wife, Hanareh, a name which means "anar" or pomegranate. Hanareh has left the old man for another musician. Why? To sing.
The film follows the Three (Kurdish) Stooges across borders, refugee camps, snow-laden mountains and even a village wedding. As it must happen in road-trip films and indeed, on any memorable road trip, mishaps occur. The weather makes for a formidable opponent, not to mention land-mines, Saddam's chemical warfare and highway robbers. So does the trio succeed in its mission? Yes and no. That is what separates a good road-trip film from a bad one. The film may have to end, but not the journey.
By the end of the film, I was thinking, how could there not be humor and music in the Kurds' world? How else could they hold a big, bold middle finger to Saddam and the weather Gods and poverty and mass graves? (and you dare not ask me my views on the current war in Iraq. I am more confused than ever. See the film and you will know why.)
The closing shot (a 6-hanky sequence) makes you realize how our definitions of hope are so limited and narrow. To me, dreaming of another set of circumstances is hope, imagining a better life is hope. But if I put myself in the trio's shoes (I DON'T have 3 pairs of feet), I realize my definition is more of a fantasy. To accept one's situation fully, to be unafraid to give up some dreams to fulfill others, to sing and to persist - that is something approaching these people's definition of hope.