There are scene in Imad’s Childhood when the titular subject, a five year old Yazidi boy who returned to his community after ISIS kidnapped him and his family, do a child’s impression of ISIS. He hits his classmates and plant a tree on a road and pretend it’s a bomb. On another, holds a knife and uses it to try to carve a table. Some viewers can see this and feel the need to worry. His mother also worries that he will never change. Another woman in his community, a child psychologist, has a different approach to the boy acting out a lot of trauma. She asks his mother what he’s afraid of, which yes, feels like a woo woo response to a child or anyone inflicting harm on others. But it’s also the most valid question, because approaching a violent child differently and acknowledging his trauma might just work.
Imad’s rehabilitation, which comes in fits and starts, in a way represents the Yazidi people’s recent psyche. And that psyche comes through the boy’s face, which is one of the most interesting ones in recent documentaries. The boy who usually hits his classmates ends up, unexpectedly, caring for a plant. The camera captures that face, curious at preserving that life while the previous version of him only wanted to destroy. But within the same scene, he pushes his brother, showing that healing is never an upward progression. The documentary offers no easy answers, which is probably for the best since this is, after all, depicting the early stages of a child’s life. There’s a possibility that he can drop his hyperactive nature and be a calm adult, forgetting his traumatic past, and learn to be better. The movie, it its essence, offers a glimmer of hope for the boy.