Hania A.M. Nashef deposited Coming of Age in Troubled Times: Son of Babylon and Theeb in the group LLC Arabic on MLA Commons 1 year, 5 months ago
Jordan and Iraq are not countries that are often associated with a local film culture. Recently, however, a nascent film industry has started to grow in both Iraq and Jordan, producing films that have been shown in international film festivals. Even though the Jordanian film industry remains in its infancy, the films that have emerged of late attempt to understand the history that has shaped the country and what being Jordanian is. On the other hand, the first Iraqi film was produced in 1948, and since that date the Iraqi cinema was a victim of the politics of the country, coming to a standstill in 1980, with the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. The post-Saddam era is witnessing a limited revival by a handful of directors, who believe that they have to tell the story of life under dictatorship and war. Mohammed Al-Daradji is an Iraqi director who returned to Baghdad in 2003 to tell the story of the victims who have lived during the Saddam regime and the war era. In this essay, I propose to discuss two films that narrate the coming of age stories of two young boys during times of war. Through the eyes of these boys, we see countries and cultures unfolding. The first film is Jordanian director, Naji Abu Nowar’s debut film, Theeb (2014), set in 1916 in what is now southern Jordan. The film tells the story of a young Bedouin boy, Theeb, and his elder brother who belong to a tribe living at the edge of the Ottoman Empire, whose lives are interrupted by the arrival of a British army officer during the First World War. The visit sets in motion a journey in hostile territory. In Al-Daradji’s film, Son of Babylon (2009), we join young Ahmed and his grandmother on a journey through a post-war ruined country with its rich mosaic of culture in search of the boy’s father. In both films, we witness not only boyhood journeys but also stories of countries that are yet to emerge.