"Have you been injured before?" asks Iraqi emergency room nurse Nori Sharif of a patient being treated for head trauma. "No, never," replies the older man. "Then you are not from Iraq," jokes Sharif.
It's one of the extremely rare moments of levity shared in the potently immersive "Nowhere to Hide," offering a deeply personal perspective of the volatility in Iraq over the years following the 2011 pullout of American troops.
Rather than taking a more traditional documentary-filmmaking approach, Kurdish Norwegian director Zaradasht Ahmed shrewdly chose to hand his camera over to Sharif, a soulful, eloquent father of four whose firsthand interactions provide an affecting portrait of ordinary civilians caught in an endless crossfire between Islamic State and Shiite and Kurdish factions.
With their lives literally and figuratively shattered by daily onslaughts from sticky-bombs, night snipers and kidnappers, the notion of hope for the inhabitants of Sharif's hometown of Jalawla becomes as scarce a commodity as water and shelter. .
"It's difficult to diagnose this war — you only see the symptoms," observes an increasingly frustrated Sharif, whose family soon finds itself among the growing throngs of refugees attempting to outrun the encroaching bombings.
As captured through the ceaselessly unflinching lens of Sharif's borrowed video camera, "Nowhere to Hide" offers an uneasy prognosis that is at once graphically gut-wrenching and doggedly life-affirming.
'Nowhere to Hide'
In Arabic with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills