For the Iraqis still living in their home country, the war is everywhere. It permutates yet it’s constant. Zaradasht Ahmed recruits Iraqi nurse Nori Sharif. The film director thinks that Sharif, who works in Jalawla can bring him closer to the war’s survivors and the latter does. They talk about a war that they can’t understand, since the belligerents keep changing.
Some of us can make assumptions as to why Iraq is perpetually at war. But thankfully, that’s not why Ahmed made Nowhere To Hide. By bringing us to the people living through the war we can see them as humans instead of statistics. Ahmed shows Sharif, a man taking on the task of being the film’s main subject. The latter’s also trying to hold on to his home and livelihood. That as he watches the war obliterates other lives.
Ahmed shoots these empty battlefields as majestic yet unforgiving spaces. He also lets Sharif film other people, their aesthetics and missions intertwine into one another. The film begins during the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in December of 2011. The years quickly pass by, and conditions get worse. Sharif narrates these changes for us. Businesses close their shops, the the owners and employees leaving the country.
The documentary spends a scene with Sharif and the parents of a child who works the dumps. Sharif tells them to let their boy study, even figuring out how the child can both work and study. But the father’s explanation shuts the conversation down. The film shows the elusiveness of understanding as a concept. Sharif doesn’t understand poverty the way I assume we don’t understand the poverty in our backyard.
And this futility, this limit in everyone’s understand is what, to me, makes the film universal. The film then returns to the boy in question. His work only gets him 50 cents for every kilogram of bottles that he collects. There’s a lot to see in his living conditions and the divide between him and Sharif. It is, again, a stark reminder of the divides at home. It also made me realize that our own conditions are constructs that can easily disappear.
Most of the time, Nowhere To Hide allows Sharif and the fellow citizens of Jalawla for their stories to shine. At other times we hear the Kurdish oud punctuate scenes. It’s as if it’s telling us how much sadder these lives than they already are. But a flaw like this is barely noticeable. It thankfully doesn’t distract us from the reality that Ahmed tries to show his audience.