"Hanging Gardens" Film Explores Themes of War and Madness

Fragile Realities: Children, War, and Madness in Hanging Gardens

A film review by Dr. Ramzi Salti (Stanford University)

Hanging Gardens [Arabic title Janain mualaqa جنائن معلقة] is a is a 2022 comedy-drama film co-written and directed by Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji. It is an Iraqi-Palestinian-Saudi Arabian-Egyptian-British co-production that has received much attention at Cannes 2023 after winning the Best Film Award at the Red Sea Film Festival (a film festival launched in 2019 and held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia).

This film takes viewers on a gripping journey as a young Iraqi rubbish picker stumbles upon an unexpected "treasure" amidst the Baghdad dumps—an American sex doll. What initially seems like a whimsical discovery quickly propels him into a perilous red zone, where friendships are shattered, allegiances become uncertain, and the line between love, war, and madness blurs. In this explosive mix of emotions, director Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji crafts a compelling narrative that explores the complexities of life in a war-torn landscape.

Al Daradji's adept handling of the material is evident throughout the film. His vision and storytelling expertise allow the comedy and drama elements to coexist harmoniously, creating a rich and engaging viewing experience. Al Daradji's direction brings out the nuanced performances of the talented cast--none of whom are professional actors--allowing their chemistry to shine on screen.

It is important to note that Hanging Gardens contains disturbing scenes that may not be suitable for general audiences. The film unflinchingly confronts the harsh realities of war, delving into the depths of human suffering and the psychological toll it takes on individuals. Al Daradji does not shy away from portraying the darker aspects of the human condition, creating moments that are deeply unsettling and challenging to watch.

However, it is precisely these unsettling moments that lend weight and authenticity to the film's narrative. Through its depiction of disturbing scenes, Hanging Gardens seeks to provoke introspection and highlight the profound impact of war on the lives of ordinary people. It is a cinematic experience that demands emotional investment and a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths.

Trailer:  Hanging Gardens (Venice Film Festival)

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