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Thursday, November 26, 2015

'Iraqi Odyssey' Theatrical Release: Modern Day Mideast 'Roots'

Iraqi Odyssey Abu Dhabi Film Festival

The new documentary "Iraqi Odyssey," which opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 27 2015, by the Iraqi film maker (and resident of Switzerland) currently known as Samir aptly compares the story of the family of this documentarian to the classic Greek tale of the similar name. Modern audiences of this well-paced nearly three-hour movie will get more of a vibe of the Alex Haley epic "Roots." One spoiler is that the film makes a great study aid for anyone taking a course in the history of Iraq.

The press release for "Odyssey" more eloquently describes the film by stating that it "pays moving homage to the frustrated democratic dreams of a people successively plagued by the horrors of dictatorship, war, and foreign occupation," The scope of this documentary spans from Iraqi being under the foreign rule of a sultan in the early 1900s to the current mess in which the country finds itself. This release additionally addresses the understandable challenge of getting family members to accept direction from Samir.

"Odyssey" opens with short clips of interviews with various relatives, who are scattered across the globe largely as a result of the aforementioned ongoing turmoil in their native country. Samir nicely has each interview lead to the other before introducing himself and presenting an overview of his extensive family tree, which includes a handful of second spouses and step-children. The root of the tree is the grandfather of Samir. This patriarch starts things off by having seven children.

Samir also artfully connects members of each generation of his family with a significant event (or series of events) in the national history of Iraq. All of this occurs in the context of the ancestry of the clan granting it a very special place in that country.

One of the more interesting historic tales in "Odyssey" relates to a family legend that features the aforementioned grandfather. The tale has this independent-minded man symbolically throwing his symbolic black turban in a body of water; the reality may be radically different.

One of the more modern interesting stories is that of a female cousin of Samir who is 30 years his junior. We learn of her early life in Iraq during the commencement of Gulf II, the bureaucratic rules that prevent her from seeking refuge with the rest of her immediate family, and her arrival in New York. The audience additionally sees the Buffalo-area life of this relative.

On a larger level, Samir nicely documents how the story of his family parallels that of their countrymen. All of these stories show the intense impact of the seemingly endless series of changes in the form of the Iraqi government since the end of the 19th century.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Odyssey" is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.