Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about you most recent film.
Your short film’s two main subjects, Zahed and Najah, are two former enemies from the Iran-Iraq War who become blood brothers for life after they meet again by sheer chance in Canada 25 years after one saves the other’s life on the battlefield. ‘My Enemy, My Brother‘ is an incredibly unique window into the Sunni-Shia conflict that played out in the Iran-Iraq War and has now plunged Iraq (and Syria) deep into civil war today. It is an incredible story of redemption and hope.
OWFF: How did this project come about?
Ann Shin: I heard about their story through a friend of mine, Greg Kelly, who is now the Executive Producer of CBC’s Ideas. He had heard of this story years ago, and made it into an Ideas radio documentary. I was moved and intrigued by Zahed and Najah’s story, and as I visited my parents in Vancouver in 2012, I decided to seek out Najah and Zahed, who both live in the Vancouver area. I called them up out of the blue, and explained I was so inspired by their story, I just wanted to meet them and talk with them. They kindly met me and we all sat down to cups and cups of mint tea. Their stories came pouring out, and I was deeply moved. As a documentary filmmaker some stories will come and grab you and not let you go… this is what happened to me with Zahed and Najah’s story; I felt compelled to share their story and shape it into a film documentary.
Do you think that there are a lack of positive stories about the Middle East?
Yes. For all the news and current affairs coverage we have of the Middle East, there are very few positive stories from this region. There isn’t even much of a range in the kinds of stories that we hear from Iran, Iraq, Syria and other countries. This story shows two ordinary men from Iran and Iraq who were extraordinarily brave, and are an inspiration for the rest of us.
Is it true that for the feature counterpart to this short film, you and your crew will be filming undercover in Iraq and Iran as Najah and Zahed go back to their homelands searching for a missing wife and son, and missing parents?
Yes, we are starting by following Najah to Iraq as he searches for his missing wife and son. They’ve been missing for more than 2 decades, but they haven’t been declared dead. Najah feels there is some kind of energy, some live current connecting him to his son, and is convinced he must be alive somewhere in Iraq. We will follow him back to his hometown which has undergone much destruction, and reconstruction after decades of war. Much of his old neighbourhood has changed. We will follow him as he tries to find old neighbours and searches through birth records and death records. I think his journey will peel back layers of his life, and decades of Iraqi history, which has not been laid to rest.
Zahed hopes to see his parents before it’s too late. He fled Iran decades ago and now has learned his father is dying of a brain tumour. He hopes desperately to make it back to see his father one last time before he dies, but Zahed is worried about returning to Iran, for his safety could be compromised being back in that country. We have been talking with him about other ways we could help arrange for them to meet his father, and hope we can help this happen before it is too late.
Ann Shin – Director, Producer, Writer/ Ann is a multiple award-winning Director, Producer and principal of Fathom Film Group. With 19 years of experience, she has produced independent feature films, feature documentaries and delivered hundreds of hours of programming that have aired on CBC, TVO, CBC Newsworld, Discovery Channel, HGTV, History Channel, SLICE. Her latest cross-platform project The Defector film and interactive was selected into 20 international film festivals, and was nominated for 6 awards, winning Best Documentary and Best Documentary Director at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards. The Defector Interactive won the FITC Award, the Canadian Digi Award, and at the SXSW Interactive Festival.
‘My Enemy My Brother’ is screening on Thursday, September 24th as part of the festival’s programming at the National Gallery of Canada:
Thursday September 24th
One World Film Festival Presents: Documenting Democracy
Hosted by Alan Neal (CBC Radio One – All in a Day)
Doors @ 5:30pm
6pm Welcome to the 26th One World Film Festival
6:20pm My Enemy, My Brother (Canada)
6:40pm Democrats (Denmark)
8:45pm Panel with Institute of African Studies
Join Professors Andriata Chironda, Kamari Clarke, and Blair Rutherford from Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies for a discussion on the political situation in Zimbabwe and our ever-changing understanding of democracy. Hosted by Alan Neal (CBC Radio 1 All in a Day).
The 2015 edition of the festival features international and Canadian documentaries, thought-provoking panel discussions and interactive workshops and takes place September 24-26 at the National Gallery of Canada and September 27 at Saint Paul University. For more information and to view the full 2015 festival schedule, visit oneworldfilmfestival.ca