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Published September 29th 2013
If you missed this, it has to be shown again
One part of the OzAsia Festival that I did get to was a showing of In my Mother's Arms, a heart-rending documentary that was one of many films in the APSA (Asia Pacific Screen Awards) Showcase. It was on at 3.30pm on Saturday at the Mercury Cinema, and to my great surprise I was one of only 5 in the audience – and three of the other people were part of my party.
This film was made in Iraq in 2011, in conjunction with the UK and the Netherlands. It describes the plight of a private orphanage and in particular two boys who live there, Mohammed, a teenager who never knew his parents and ran away from a State orphanage, and Saif, who lost his parents in a bomb attack and seems to have forgotten how to smile. Thirty two boys live in a tiny house, cared for by Husham and a handful of helpers. The State orphanages have dreadful reputations for cruelty, sexual abuse and corruption, yet Husham is unable to get the funding he desperately needs to keep the boys' home running.
The hand held camera and apparently casual footage, seemingly at times as unsophisticated as a home movie, makes us feel as if we were all in Baghdad sharing these boys' lives. When a bomb went off just as the boys were getting ready to go to school, we jumped in our seats, wondering if a bomb had gone off in the street outside the cinema.
[ADVERT]The camera is not really as artless as it appears, however. The film has been meticulously edited in such a way that in the space of 82 minutes it is able to convey the life stories of these two boys, as well as Husham's own struggle to maintain a family life against the backdrop of the uncertain future of the orphanage, in a city that is still dealing with the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein. We left the cinema feeling privileged and thankful that we live in such a peaceful country, but also wondering whether anyone is helping Husham and his boys, now that the whole world knows about their plight.
I discovered later why the cinema was so empty - everyone was congregating at the Festival theatre for the Pasar Malam, which started at 4pm, and by the time we got there the queues at the food stalls were so long that we had to give up and went to the Neptune Palace in Gouger Street for a meal instead.
I have been here before for yum cha, and this time I was just as impressed with their evening meal. I always ask my Chinese friends to recommend the best restaurants, and I think this is one of the best I've been to. We had a simple selection of Mongolian chicken, combination seafood and mushroom hot pot, which was just right for four people who don't have huge appetites.