Gomgashtei dar Aragh (Marooned in Iraq) (2002)




Director:     Bahman Ghobadi. 

Starring:     Shahab Ebrahimi (Mirza), Faegh Mohamadi (Barat), Allah-Morad Rashtian (Audeh), Rojan Hosseini (Rojan), Saeed Mohammadi (The Teacher), Iran Ghobadi (Hanareh), Mariam Pouyani, Hossein Rashid-Ghamat, Fathollah Sa'edi, Bahram Sarbazi.

a well-known Kurdish musician seeks to find his ex-wife stranded in Iraq at the time of Saddam Hussein's war on the Kurds


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Iran.  Planes fly over the mountains of Kurdistan.  The musician Barat, son of the well-known musician Mirza, is sitting on his motorcycle placed on the back of a flat-bed pulled by a tractor.  A doctor by the side of the road stops the truck and asks if they are going to Tousheh.  The answer is yes and so he asks for and gets permission to get on the back of the truck.  The doctor sits in the side car of the motorcycle.  He tells Barat that Saddam Hussein has bombed Iraqi Kurdistan and that there are lots of homeless because of it.  A lot of refugees have come over to Iran Kurdistan for safety.  Barat says "Damn Hussein", but the doctor quickly objects because the bombing has given the doctor a lot of patients to treat.  The doctor tells Barat that things are going badly for Hanareh.  She did something very bad to Barat's father Mirza.  The doctor sees the woman as faithless and selfish. 

Barat shouts to the driver to stop; he wants to get off.  Barat drives his motorcycle to his father's house.  His brother Audeh greets him, while Mirza is busy teaching a music class.  After his class, Mirza greets Barat.  The father tells his son that some of the refugees have told him that Hanareh had accompanied the refugees to the border.  Barat sympathizes with his father because Hanareh left him for his friend Seyed, another musician.  But Mizra wants Barat to help him find Hanareh in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Barat agrees, but it isn't so easy to get Audeh to come along.  He complains that he should stay to take care of his seven wives and his many children, but Mizra insists. 

Their plan is to go to the refugee camp where a woman called Khajeh is supposed to have news of Hanareh.  They arrive at their destination and while dad looks for Khajeh, the two sons play music for the crowd of youngsters.  Barat plays the flute and Audeh beats a hand held drum that looks something like a tambourine without the metal pieces on the side.  Dad finds Khajeh.  He tells her that he lied to his sons.  He told them that he was still married to Hanareh.  And he lied about Hanareh running away.  Khajeh tells him to go the the Iraqi side to find Hanareh and her husband Seyeh. 

Mizra talks with an old woman named Amin who is said to have a letter to Mizra from Hanareh.  But when she looks for the letter she cannot find it.  She says she must have lost the letter.  Mizra is upset, but Khajeh tells him that a matchmaker named Mollah Ghader must have the letter.  Khajeh tells Mizra to go to Golige to find Ghader. 

On their way the men learn that Saddam has ruined this entire region.  They run into a man being dragged slowly behind a bicycle being pulled along the road by a huge man.  The family of three stop and try to help the man being dragged.  To their surprise they discover that the man is none other than Mollah Ghader.  The huge man is dragging him along the road because the matchmaker set up a marriage between his girlfriend and another man.  The three fight with the huge man who holds his own.  A man with two rifles sitting nearby on the mountain fires into the air and then descends to the men.  Soon Mollah Ghader has been buried up to his neck by the side of the road. 

Mizra and his boys travel to the nearby village and play their instruments for the wedding ceremony.  The huge man soon shows up and fires his rifle into the air.  He shouts that he will not allow his girlfriend to marry another.  The doctor from the road shows up.  He says he hopes someone gets shot like last year so he can make some money healing the person. 

A young boy comes up to Mizra to ask him to save Mollah Ghader.  But Mizra refuses the request.  Barat takes a bathroom break and sees a woman's shadow on the opposite wall.  He falls in love with her singing voice.  He can't see her face clearly but he asks her if she is married.  No, she is single.  He asks her to be his wife.  The woman asks him if he is joking.  Barat insists he is serious.  The woman agrees to marry him on one condition; that she be allowed to sing (since the new Republic of Iran banned women from singing publicly).   Barat says no and the woman immediately leaves.  The musician gets a bit scared and so he quickly begs for her pardon, without effect. 

There is a gunfight between the huge man and the father of the bride.  Mizra finally agrees to help Mollah Ghader.  He starts to dig him out, while the trapped man tells him some news about Hanareh.  The police show up shooting their rifles into the air.  The three leave n the motorcycle.  But they are soon stopped by thieves and robbed of everything they have, even their coats.  Walking along the road Mizra stops a blue pick-up truck.  Mizra is recognized and they tell him and his sons to get onto the back of the truck.  Audeh complains and whines about the terrible things that have happened to them and reminds his father and brother that he had wanted to stay home.

The blue pick-up runs into the two policemen who are in their long underwear, victims of thieves.  Sergeant Rahmani demands that they take them to the police station, but since the driver does not know them, he drives off without them.  The musicians stop at a traveling coffee shop.  There is a huge temporary market place around the coffee shop.  The owners have to keep moving the coffee shop when Saddam bombs the area in which they are currently working.  In the coffee shop, a customer asks Mizra about Hanareh.  The question gets a big laugh.  It seems that everyone knows all the news about Mizra. 

Outside Barat sees his motorcycle.  He does not believe the man when he says he purchased the motorcycle from a couple of fellows and he gets in a brawl with the man and others trying to stop the fight.  Mizra is told by the coffee shop owner that the man with the motorcycle did buy the motorcycle.  Sergeant Rahmani and his associate arrive at the coffee shop. 

The musicians accompany the huge caravan of people and animals heading back from the market place.  The sentiment is that Saddam is going to kill all of the people in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Planes bomb a nearby village.  The musicians break off from the caravan and run into a school teacher with a large group of students.  The teacher is instructing his students on the nature of airplanes, using the Iraqi planes as examples.  After finishing his lecture, the teacher tells Mizra that his (the teacher's) house and school were destroyed by bombing.  He also tells Mizra that Hanareh left because she wanted to sing.  But in Iraq she also was not allowed to sing and got in trouble.  The teacher invites the musicians to stay with him at the refugee camp.  Along the way they meet the doctor again.  The only thing he has is some light clothing.  He also was robbed by the thieves. Now the doctor damns Saddam instead of praising him. 

At the refugee camp the musicians see thousands of orphaned children who lost their parents during the bombings.  The teacher says there are four camps like this one filled with Kurdish children.  Mizra learns that Hanareh is supposed to be in Raman.  She is ill.  The two sons play and sing for the orphans.  Bombs are exploding somewhere nearby. 

Audeh meets a pretty camp worker named Rojane along with a girfriend of hers.  He asks her if her girlfriend is single.  He is interested in possible marriage.  He explains that he has always wanted a son and has vowed that he will not be finished with seeking new women until he gets a son.  Rojane is not too happy with Audeh's approach to life and she suggests that he adopt one of  the many orphaned boys.  Audeh likes the idea and chooses the two boys that performed along with him  as he and his brother entertained the orphans. 

Audeh stays behind as Mizra and Barat accompany the teacher along the road to Raman.  They find what appears to be a mass funeral.  The teacher explains that here is a mass grave of those massacred by order of Saddam.  He adds that this is the fifth or sixth such grave found.  One was found in Garmian with at least 15,000 corpses.  Barat sees the woman he asked to marry him.  She talks with him.  He asks her again if she will marry him and she agrees.  He tells her that he will be back to get her.  He starts to accompany his father on the road to Raman.  But the teacher told Mizra not to take Barat with him because the authorities are grabbing sons to put into their army.  So Mizra orders Barat to stay and he proceeds alone on his journey to find Hanareh. 

Mizra reaches a man living in a huge metal container.  He tells Mizra that yes this is Raman, but all the men were killed and the women are all in a refugee camp on the other side of the mountain.  So Mizra sets on his way to cross over the mountain.  When he reaches the refugee camp he is told that Hanareh is not there.  They say "You arrived too late."  They say that Hanareh got tired of waiting and left.  The women tell Mizra that Hanareh was affected by the chemical weapons used against the Kurds and she has lost her voice and is a little disfigured.  The women also inform him that Seyed is dead and that he must bury him.  Mizra is told to talk with Seyed's sister who knows where the body has been placed.  Mizra talks with the sister who will not look at him.  She explains that she is disfigured.  She tells Mizra that Seyed's last wish was to be able to play music with him once more.  Then the sister goes to get a coffin for the body. 

The funeral is a huge one with hundreds of women refugees attending.  After the funeral Mizra asks for Seyed's sister but is told that the sister is sick.  The women explain to Mizra what Hanareh wanted from him.  Hanareh's husband and son were killed, but she still has a daughter who she left in the camp.  Mizra places the daughter on his back and starts walking up the mountain with her.

At the camp the women ask Hanareh why she did not reveal her true identity to Mizra.  She explains that she could not let Mizra see her in her current state.  This is why she played the role of Seyed's sister.

Mizra and the daughter reach the border with Iran marked by a circular string of barbed wire.  Mizra stomps on the barbed wire and crosses into Iran. 

Good movie.  In one sense it is a road trip movie.  The entire movie involves traveling.  The Kurds with a population of between 35 and 40 million are the largest stateless ethnic group in the world.  They are divided between four different countries.  In the special features section of the DVD, the director explains that the road trip approach made it possible for him to show the audience most of the terrible things that have happened to the Kurds under Saddam.  The director also made the film A Time for Drunken Horses, an even bleaker account of Kurdish realities. This movie is more of a mix of humor and tragedy, along with a lot of Kurdish music, which the director loves.  The director says that Kurdish music is a music of elation:  "Music and humor are the nutrients of our bodies and souls." 

The director notes that the movie has an optimistic ending in spite of all the terrible events that have happened to the Kurds.  All three of the musicians found someone on their journey:  Barat found a wife; Audeh adopted two orphaned boys; and Mizra got a daughter.  The director says that Hanareh left Iran twenty-three years earlier with the emergence of the Islamic Republic when women were no longer permitted to sing publicly.  He adds that the story of Hanreh is the story of Kurdistan. 

The three musicians were three actual musicians.  The director likes to use as actors people who are what there characters are, at least as regards occupation. 

I was not laughing during the movie, although it was a little cute how Audeh was always whining and complaining to his father and brother.  The movie is one of many dealing with the cruelties against a people by various dictators. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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