11 Images

On location in Iraq

Film director Mohamed Al-Daradji and members of his crew were kidnapped and bullied by Sunni Muslim gunmen, then kidnapped again and bullied by Shiite Muslim gunmen, and finally jailed and interrogated by American soldiers, while shooting “Ahlaam.” (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
Aseel Adil plays Ahlaam, a young bride who is driven mad and committed to a psychiatric hospital after her fiancé is forcibly taken away. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
A character who is captured and arrested for deserting the Iraqi army under the Saddam Hussein regime has his ear cut off as punishment and is sent to an asylum. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
When filming military scenes, Daradji lived in fear that his sets would be mistaken for insurgent camps by an American helicopter crew. He would wave a white shirt to warn them off and created a large sign on the ground reading: “Please Mr. Pilot. I’m an Iraqi filmmaker rebuilding Iraq. Do not shoot at me. Contact your army base.” (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
Director Mohamed Al-Daradji crouches down to film Ahlaam (Aseel Adil) who has fallen after being hit in the head with a gun by Saddam operatives as they were arresting her activist fiancé on their wedding day. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
Daradji directs a beating scene for his film, which may be the last to come out of Iraq for some time. As Iraq descends into civil war, much of the educated, artistic class has been fleeing the country. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
A scene from “Ahlaam” shows snipers and looters in Baghdad following the American invasion. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
Casting of the title character proved to be difficult. A scene in which a disoriented Ahlaam is raped scared away most of the actresses who auditioned. Aseel Adil, the actress who took the part, agreed to do so on the condition that her husband would play the rapist. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
The filmmakers lived in constant fear while shooting “Ahlaam.” They were shot at more than once by passing U.S. patrols while filming after curfew on the Baghdad streets. And shooting military scenes in the desert was equally frightening. “Whenever the helicopters would approach, we would hold our breath,” director Mohamed Al-Daradji said. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
Crew members slept in their car outside Baghdad as a set was built in the desert. The film was shot over four months in late 2004 in and around Baghdad, where bombings, shootings and blackouts were everyday occurrences. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)
The director frames a scene from “Ahlaam,” the first feature film to be shot entirely on location in Baghdad following the fall of Saddam Hussein. (Courtesy Mohamed Al-Daradji)