The things you own end up owning you.

The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein and Naseer Shamma

The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein is an independent film produced in 2001 by the American director John Gianvito. The film explains simultaneously three stories – during and just in the aftermath of the Gulf War- one the story of Fernanda Hussein and her sister and son, the other Raphael a highschool student, and the war veteran Carlos both living in New Mexico.

The story of Fernanda Hussein is by far the saddest of all, before the first Gulf War beings, the locals write xenophobic graffiti’s on Fernanda’s home wall. Fernanda, a Mexican-American is married to an Egyptian man who went back to Egypt to find a job and left Fernanda with her two children. The story gets tense, after the two do not come back from the school. We see at the beginning of the film, the corpses of two children slowly sliding on the river and we can discern that they are indeed Fernanda’s children, attacked by locals due to their name “Hussein” a direct connotation with Saddam the Hussein.

Raphael, comes from a upper middle class, a-politic family, and he tries to understand the meaning of war, and through his critical teacher he develops a hatred to the passivity of the population towards the war. and engages in peace activism. His endevaours and the mix feelings paves the way to intense discussions with his parents. In one discussion, the camera captures Raphael’s father working while eating his breakfast, whereas the mother playing the girly role in the kitchen. the house is tip-top and everything is just like in those ikea catalogues. raphael is deeply annoyed by the fact that even his family cannot understand the meaning of war and urge him to go back to his normal life and not to meddle with these political ideas.

Whereas Fernanda virtually goes mad and begins to live in the mountains, Raphael leaves his home and begins to live the life of a aimless looser. his contact with the peace movement in a way changes his life, and gives him a reason to live.

Carlos, is deeply traumatised during the war, and at home he is welcomed as a hero, with the curious question of how many Iraqis he killed. he tries to go back to normal life, but his former chief already installed a new worker in his position and refuses to take him back. completely disoriented, Carlos meets his girlfriend and in the desert tells him his traumas during the war. fernanda’s cries stop him to rape his girlfriend.

The film is interrupted by the songs of Iraqi oud player Nasser Shamma.  Shamma’s song “Happened at al-Amiriyya,” is especially the most shocking and wonderful piece i have heard int he last times. The piece is composed in the aftermath of the coalition forces’ namely the US bombing al-Amiriyya shelter on February 13, 1991, iwhich put an end to the lives of  400 Iraqi women and children. Shamma’s oud becomes the camera, and the music takes u to the atrocities. especially his sliding technique to echo the sirens, and the flamenco like moves to echo the bombing is by one word extraordinary. you can feel the hapiness before the bombing in the shelter, like lullabies and the chaos, the bombings the cries and the sadness in its aftermath.

the film also shows historical footage from the CNN and other tv channel’s portrayal of the coming back of the troops.

7.9 over 10

a good film, but extremely depressive which is good and necessary.


October 30, 2008 - Posted by | Film Reviews

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