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Go Kart Films presents

The Dreams of Sparrows (2005)

"Some of the Iraqi people like America, and the majority like Americans. They want them to stay even after the transfer of power. But not the American army, just the American politicians because they are good leaders. Then there is another group of people that are unenlightened, uneducated. They think the Americans want to occupy them! They hate the Americans for no reason. Just because they are Americans. Americans with a different religion. And they don't think for a moment that America did us a favor by saving us from Saddam."- Hayder Jabbar Fehed

Stars: Hayder Mousa Daffar, Hayder Jabbar Fehed, Rassim Mansour, Moledad Al-Azeez, Khariya Mansour, Sa'ad Fakher
Other Stars: Suzan Mansour, Casey McFall, Abdel-Karim Khalil, Mohammed Masier, Ra'ed Abdul Ghaffer, Hussen Al Soltanj, "Walid"
Director: Hayder Mousa Daffar

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (scenes of carnage, language, thematic content)
Run Time: 01h:09m:53s
Release Date: 2005-05-24
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B A+BB- B-


DVD Review

The Dreams of Sparrows is a rough documentary. Not just in terms of the filmmaking by director Hayder Mousa Daffar and his crew, which is to be expected since Saddam Hussein's regime made it difficult for any form of art to emerge and fine-tune itself, but also because the content is so harrowing. I suspect that anybody who sees this challenging piece of work, be they pro- or anti-war, will see things they both agree and disagree with. Maybe this is a sign that Daffar is getting at the truth, because he isn't interested in putting out a piece of propaganda that has all the answers. In fact, while watching this movie, I found no answers, only questions.

At first some of the images from Iraq might seem comical due to their absurdity. They present a ground floor view of Baghdad and other parts of the country, where destitute living and the effects of war are contrasted with Pepsi cans and pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger almost everywhere. The initial shock of these images is quickly replaced by images of the dead, of destroyed buildings and of homeless families. This is a view of Iraq rarely seen, because it is captured here by its natives. Their culture, so radically different than ours, instills a sense of confusion in me. Young school girls are shown drawing pictures of the war with crayons and most seem to be very pleased with the US presence, though one child is upset that plants have been destroyed in the bombings. Cabbies drive around the streets, some begging for Saddam to return to power and others thrilled at his capture. Many people profess a love of US President George W. Bush and his father, including collaborative filmmakers Hayder Jabbar Fehed and Khariya Mansour, while others pronounce a hatred for him, articulated by another filmmaker, Rassim Mansour.

As if the aforementioned hodgepodge of ideas isn't dichotic enough, other people interviewed here seem to thank and condemn Bush within the same sentence. A telling scene in the documentary comes from a former Iraqi army general called "Walid," who proclaims that the American forces would not be able to last against the Iraqi military, and says this when the war is already over. In another scene the crew takes their cameras into a mental hospital to interview men who were put there by Uday Hussein. One man had two brothers tortured and killed by Saddam's favorite son and, although the emotional damage to him is severe, it is tough for me to imagine why he should be in an asylum. Maybe his presence there is the only way to keep him safe from the chaos presently occupying his country.

I see much hope and despair in The Dreams of Sparrows. The images of Saddam's brutal secret police beating men, mass graves of Iraqi's killed during the war, and frightened children who lost their innocence too soon are hard hitting slices of contemporary Iraq that seems underrepresented by the American media. Some of the elements shown here, such as gas lines that span several city blocks and displaced persons barely surviving on the coalition's supplies, affirm fears that little progress has been made in the postwar period of reconstruction. Others, however, offer hope that the people of Iraq are slowly awakening from the nightmare of Saddam's rule and taking control of their country: people in the streets standing up to the terrorists who bomb fellow Iraqis, an Iraqi journalist named Hussen Al Soltanj who eloquently articulates the successes and failures of the US-led invasion, and the simple fact that this documentary could be made—something that would not have been possible just three years ago.

However, it's impossible to watch this movie and simply feel good about the decision to go to war. War is hell and this documentary clearly shows this. Men and women, good and bad have died or lost love ones on both sides of this conflict. Some success has been achieved, some shortcomings have occurred, and regression into violence by some Iraqis makes life for peaceful civilians dangerous.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot on digital video, the image is fittingly harsh and immediate. Edge enhancement and artifacting are not apparent, making for a strong presentation of the material.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Arabicno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Stereo mix comes through clearly and cleanly. Some hiss is detected at times, but it appears to be the result of the source material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Horns and Halos, Orwell Rolls in his Grave
7 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Director Hayder Daffar—director Daffar discusses his formation of the IraqEye Group.
  2. Iraqi Satire—a mock interview with an imposter government official about the state of Iraq.
  3. Saddam Propaganda—two video clips of Saddam Hussein's televised propaganda.
Extras Review: The extra features begin with trailers for Horns and Halos and Orwell Rolls in His Grave. Following that are seven deleted scenes, though only two are officially labeled as deleted scenes. Each runs roughly 90 seconds in length, with the most interesting being Extended Politics and Hagop. Each scene shows another piece of life in Iraq, so make sure to look at all of them. Following that is an interview with director Hayder Daffar (03m:10s) about his formation of the IraqEye Group. His comments reveal a profound misunderstanding of democracy, but an idyllic enthusiasm about the newfound freedom of Iraq. After that is an Iraqi Satire (02m:07s), set up as a mock interview with a man pretending to be an official answering questions about the state of Iraq. The humor is lost on me, but I think that is to be expected. The supplements conclude with two clips of Saddam Propaganda at roughly 30 seconds a piece. There are no subtitles on the clips and the same clips have been shown on TV here in the States.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

A haunting documentation of the effects of the Iraq War, The Dreams of Sparrows ought to be seen by all adults due to its poignant insights and the questions it raises. The supplements add further questions, making this DVD a must-have for all attentive citizens.

Nate Meyers 2005-06-03