Ali Mohammed Saeed’s directorial debut raises awareness of the more than 3000 Yazidi women that were kidnapped and sold into sex slavery by ISIS. In “Mosul 980” a girl disguised as an ISIS fighter is trying to find out a way of her misery. As she staggers between ruins and corpses, she gets help from a Iraqi officer. But is she really safe?

Saeed, who produced this short film via his non-profit organization Enki Films, is definitely a film activist. He won the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2009 and is the executive director of the 3 Minutes 3 Days Film Festival in Iraq.

This is screening at Berlin International Film Festival:

The atmosphere of “Mosul 980” is heavily based on sound design. Although the plot takes place at the near end of the ISIS conflict, the devastating aftermath, the destruction of war is dominated by a not so much pacified situation. ISIS fighters are still controlling the area, gunshots can be heard in the distance and snipers are monitoring every corner. The intra-diegetic sounds are complemented by a subtle score.

A hand-held camera glimpsing through the bombed ruins of streets tries to find a focus on the girl. Are we the persecutor or the rescuer? The cinematography plays with our view, but the movie does not fully bloom on the suspense level. The feeling of panic pursuit is not palpable. The main protagonist is rather cool and considered. Redhab Ahmad, who plays the main protagonist, embodies a determined young girl, willing to sacrifice everything for her freedom. She does a good job showing this determination and Saeed knows how to capture it.

“Mosul 980” is a movie against oblivion. By clearly stating the facts and figures at the end, we get to know the context of the plot. I’d like to see an extended version of the original idea. Since we do not know where the girl comes from, the director presents us only the last episode of her story.