Film review: Dreams of Sparrows

by S. Hewitt

Film details

"Dreams of Sparrows", Iraq, 2006, director Hayad Daffar, 70 minutes. The film reviewed here was shown at the Arts Picturehouse, Regent Street, at 14:00 BST on 10 July 2006 as part of the 26th Cambridge Film Festival.

Summary

The introduction - narrated in very badly accented English - says that the film is going to show us the real lives of Iraqis, including the food they eat. In fact it does no such thing. Instead what we get is a superficial series of images, often with no attempt at indication of where, when or what they represent, accompanied by patronising background music - patronising both because it sounds like a synthetic pop version of how Europeans might imagine Arab music to sound, (except that is, when a nauseating fiddler is scratching away on a violin) and because all background music in documentaries represents an attempt to turn what could be serious study into cheap entertainment.

This does not mean that there is nothing of interest in the film; it is just that any potentially interesting topics are treated in a cursory, superficial way. For example, we see tents in the streets and we are told that the people living in them are refugees from Palestine. We hear that Hussein's regime used to give Palestinian refugees houses, but now the owners of the houses have thrown them out. Does this mean that the Saddam Hussein used to expropriate people's houses to give to refugees? Did these refugees live in such houses before the American occupation? What has happened to the houses were the refugees used to live? How many refugees are there? When did they arrive in Iraq? In its superficial way the film does not attempt to address any of these obvious questions.

Amongst the credits were words to the effect that the film was sponsored in part by the Dactyl foundation for arts and humanities. There was also a credit for legal counsel followed by the name of a firm (and not having made notes, I cannot quote it) followed by "LLC" - an American acronym.