[Marxism] Zaman, the Man From the Reeds (Dir. Amer Alwan)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Thu Nov 27 08:25:49 MST 2003

*****   An Iraqi movie provokes controversy at a Moroccan festival
by Howard Feinstein
October 29 - 4, 2003

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO-The hash-trail metropolis that inspired Crosby, 
Stills, and Nash's "Marrakesh Express" is now host to a world-class 
film festival. Strict laws have nearly eliminated the lucrative drug 
trade in the medina, while the western (and Western) section of the 
city, where the third edition of the Marrakech International Film 
Festival took place last month, has boomed.

The most provocative movie at this year's festival, Zaman, the Man 
From the Reeds, was a small gem from Iraq that French-based Iraqi 
director Amer Alwan finished just three months before the Coalition 
of the Willing marched in. The film's spare style and linear story 
line belie the controversy it generated in Marrakech-mainly among 
Iraqis. Elderly Zaman (Sami Kaftan) lives in a reed hut in the 
southern marshlands with his sick wife, Najma (Shada Salim), who 
desperately needs medicine no longer available in the country's 
depleted pharmacies. He rows his small boat up the Tigris to Baghdad. 
At a hospital there, a corrupt doctor ignores his plea, but a 
sympathetic receptionist slips him the medication.

Co-producer Sattar Alwan, the filmmaker's twin brother, explains that 
they shot on digital video because "the Americans considered 
celluloid a chemical agent." He claims that the Iraqi government, who 
had a note-taking minder on set, confiscated five of the 29 tapes 
they shot for unspecified reasons. "Amer doesn't like that dictator, 
Saddam," he says.

"That's bullshit," responds Zaid Khatlan, the London-based Iraqi film 
critic for the Arabic-language daily Al Hayat. "They are Baathists. 
This is propaganda, a Saddam film. The premise is that there is no 
medicine because of the embargo. The simplicity minimizes the whole 
situation onto one man."

A highly charged point of disagreement is the significance of the 
Saddam portraits hovering over some scenes. Khatlan sees them as 
valorization of the man and the regime. Sattar Alwan and lead actor 
Kaftan, Iraq's most famous film and stage star, maintain that the 
photos were meant to point the finger at Saddam for widespread 

The three men are in accord about one thing: the U.S. presence. 
Kaftan notes, "The Americans opened up the ministries for thieves 
except for the Ministry of Oil. Still, the Iraqi people believed what 
the Americans said, that a new government would give them security. 
Now they ask, 'Why do you stay?' " "With real, enforced sanctions, 
the government would have fallen in 10 days," says Khatlan. "The 
Americans should go now and leave it to us."
<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0344/feinstein.php>   *****

*****   Zaman, l'Homme des Roseaux Zaman

France - Irak 2003

76 mins / Betacam / Arabic with French subtitles

Director: Amer Alwan
Screenplay: Hamid Shakir
Director of photography: Thomasz Chichawa
Sound: Jean-Pierre Fenie
Music: François Rabbath
Editing: Roger Ikhlef
Producers: Sattar Alwan, Didier Couedic, Marc-André Brunet

Cast: Sami Kaftan (Zaman), Shada Salim (Najma)

Production: ARTE France - Les Films du Village - Guilgamesh Films - 
Ishtar Productions

8, rue Marceau
F-92785 Issy-les-Moulineaux cedex 9
Tel: +33 1 55 00 77 77
Fax: +33 1 55 00 77 00

21, rue Marceau
92130 Issy -les- Moulineaux
Tel: +33 1 41 90 67 00
Fax: +33 1 41 90 67 09
enkidu at club-internet.fr

Amer Alwan

Iraqi nationality


- Rivages (1995)
- Vengeance (1997)
- Les Mandéens d'Iraq (2000)
- Les Enfants de l'Embargo (2000)
- Hatra, Cité des Dieux (2001)
- La Forteresse de Kirkuk (2001)

<http://www.mefilmfestival.org/meff/films/features/zaman.htm>   *****

* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>
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<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
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