In July, Cinemax Reel Life continues its one-a-month stunt of this year's four OscarŽ-nominated documentary shorts. In addition to Sari's Mother, Cinemax will be premiering the 2007 OscarŽ-winner, Freeheld, in June, with Salim Baba and La Corona (The Crown) scheduled for August and September, respectively. Details on other documentaries have appeared/will appear in their premiere month's Promo Packs.
In Sari's Mother, documentarian James Longley returns to some of the same thematic ground covered by his critically acclaimed 2007 film, Iraq in Fragments, in which he exposed audiences to three revealing sketches of post- Saddam Iraqi life. Sari's Mother focuses on only one deceptively simple story: an Iraqi mother's struggle to treat and comfort her ailing son. The narrowed focus enables Longley to capture the same humanist empathy and intimacy inherent in the prior film, delving deeper to probe the tragic forces that have shaped a society and adversely impacted a hard-working family of Iraqi farmers.
On the surface, the Zegums appear to have a bucolic, carefree existence. Days are spent tending crops, milking their cows, watching calves being born, sending young children off to school. However, we soon learn that life here is surrounded by a harsher reality. Everyone becomes anxious, fearing the worst when they hear American helicopters overhead. Children play war games with homemade clay Humvees. Meanwhile, Sari's mother must administer painful injections to her son, stricken with AIDS. Sari sees other children playing and desires wholeheartedly to join them, to walk on his feeble legs to attend school - to be like other boys. With his condition deteriorating, his mother seeks medical help in town, but no one within the poorly run Iraqi healthcare system seems willing or able to help. She and Sari travel from hospitals to government agencies, but are frustrated by the red tape of a health-care system that has fallen into chaos as a result of terrorism and foreign occupation.
Speaking of the work that went into his two films, Longley says, "Over a period of two full years I filmed six different stories in different parts of the country. Three of these stories were woven into my feature documentary, Iraq in Fragments. Though the story of Sari's Mother was one of the most compelling that I filmed in Iraq, it was not included in that larger film, and I am very happy that I have now been able to complete it as an individual work."
In addition to its Academy AwardŽ nomination, Sari's Mother won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. The film has screened at many film festivals including IDFA, True/False, Human Rights Watch, Sydney International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Istanbul International Film Festival, One World Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Full Frame and SilverDocs.
Credits: Producer, Director, Camera, Editor, Sound, Composer: James Longley.