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Marooned In Iraq (2002)
Starring: Shahab Ebrahimi, Faegh Mohammadi, Allah-Morad Rashtian,
Director: Bahman Ghobadi
Category: Documentary, Foreign
Studio: Wellspring Media, In
97 mins



In the wake of the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein turns his wrath and his air force loose against the Iraqi Kurds. Victimized by repeated bombings and extensive use of chemical weapons, Kurdish refugees are fleeing towards the Iranian border in droves.

The film opens in Iranian Kurdistan. Mirza, an aging well-known Kurdish singer, along with his musician sons, Barat and Audeh, are about to embark on a journey in search of his ex-wife Hanareh. Once the singer in a band of musicians that also included Mirza's friend Seyed, Hanareh left Mirza 23 years ago to marry Seyed in Iraqi Kurdistan and continue to sing there. Now, Mirza has received word that she is singing for the Kurdish refugees on the Iran-Iraq border and is in need of his help. To persuade his reluctant sons to accompany him on this perilous journey, he tells them he really did not divorce Hanareh but only claimed he did to save the family's honor. Barat, the older son, and Audeh, the younger son who says he needs to stay home to take care of his seven wives and thirteen daughters, grudgingly agree to go.

On their first stop at a Kurdish refugee camp in Iran, Mirza meets Dadeh Amin, Seyed's mother, who blames Mirza for the breakup of the group and searches in vain for a letter from her son regarding the whereabouts of Hanareh. Mirza's guide thinks she might have given the letter to their friend, a matchmaker, Mollah Ghader.

The trio finds Mollah Ghader in the hands of a local thug, being beaten for trying to marry off the girl the man loves to another man. Mirza, Barat and Audeh attempt to rescue Mollah Ghader, only to be overpowered by the thug and his gang after a brief fight. The thug forces them to sing at the girl's wedding and publicly vows to disrupt any ceremony if she is wed to anyone but him.

During a break from the wedding, Barat is drawn to the voice of a woman singing a soulful song. He falls in love with her, and immediately proposes to her. The woman asks him if he would train her to sing once they get married. Barat responds he would do so provided she sings only for him since singing is forbidden for women. Disappointed about his conservative attitude, she disappears, disregarding Barat's apologies.

Back at the wedding, the girl's father shows up and a shooting breaks out. In the ensuing frenzy that sends the crowd scurrying for cover, the trio manages to flee. It turns out that Mollah Ghader, who is now buried up to his neck by the thug, does not have the letter either. Armed robbers disguised as local militia attack Mirza and his sons, robbing them of all their belongings, including Barat's motorbike. While hitching a ride, they meet two military cops that have been stripped of their uniforms by the robbers. Later, at a makeshift market, Barat finds his bike, now in the possession of a smuggler who claims he bought it earlier that day. Barat tries to recover his bike by force.

At a nearby teahouse, Mirza is ridiculed for his connection to Hanareh, but a tip from the teahouse's owner sets him off to look for Hanareh again. Trekking through the mountains, the trio meets a teacher describing to his students how airplanes fly. The teacher leads them into a refugee camp. Audeh, who is still burning to have a son, inquires about the availability of two young women he meets there. He tells them he would keep marrying women until one can give him a son. Admonishing him for seeking an eighth wife, they urge him to adopt orphaned boys instead. Intrigued by the idea, Audeh decides to part company with his father and brother to focus on adopting two boys.

Mirza and Barat run into a grieving crowd at the site of a newly discovered Kurdish mass grave. Barat finds the elusive singing woman mourning the death of her brother. Barat is urged by his father to stay behind to comfort her. Mirza moves on to a camp set up for women. There he learns that Seyed has died and his body has been preserved under snow to be buried by Mirza according to Seyed's wish. Now Mirza realizes why Hanareh sent for him. After burying Seyed, Mirza is eager to meet Hanareh, but is told she does not wish to be seen by Mirza since she has been disfigured and lost her voice in the chemical bombings. Hanareh, however, wants Mirza to take her little daughter Sanooreh back to Iran. The last shot of the film shows Sanooreh, whose name means border, on Mirza's back, crossing the barbed-wire border into Iran.