115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ideological Constraints and Utopian Impulses in Zaman: The Man from the Reeds: A Dialectical Outlook

Tajaddin Noori, University of Arkansas Fayetteville

My paper argues that the Iraqi movie Zaman: The Man from the Reeds supports, on an ideological level, Saddam Hussein’s regime. It highlights the freedom of religion and worship in Saddam’s era. However, on the utopian level, the movie breaks the ideological constraints with many utopian impulses. It exhibits Iraqi Marshlands as a utopian place. It shows utopian impulses in challenging the censorship of Saddam’s regime and the shortage of cinematic equipment in Iraq under international sanctions.

Proposal: 

Zaman: The Man from the Reeds was produced by an Iraqi-French director, Amer Alwan, between December 2002 and January 2003, three months before the Iraq War in March, 2003. The movie depicts many critical periods in contemporary Iraqi history. It describes how Iraq looks eleven years after the first Gulf War, eleven years after the international sanction on Iraq, the last three months of Saddam Hussein’s more than three decades of ruling Iraq, and the last three months before a new and unending war, the Iraq War. In other words, Zaman describes Iraq in an endless suffering and between unending wars. It reveals how Saddam’s regime in general, and the Gulf War in particular, changed the Marshlands in the south of Iraq, which was considered once to be Eden, into a hell. It also portrays Baghdad living in chaos because of the Gulf War, and in a state of disorganization due to its preparation for another war. The paper shows the ideological constraints and utopian impulses in the movie, dialectically relying on Fredric Jameson’s consideration of ideology as a “negative hermeneutic” and utopia as a “positive hermeneutic.” The paper argues that the movie, on an ideological level, supports Saddam Hussein’s regime. It highlights the freedom of religion and worship in Saddam’s era, and displays Saddam’s portraits in many public places ideologically to reflect his regime’s readiness to confront the United States's upcoming war. However, on the utopian level, the movie breaks the ideological constraints with many utopian impulses. It exhibits Iraqi Marshlands as a utopian place and Zaman’s religious rituals as utopian impulses. It also has utopian impulses in challenging the censorship of Saddam’s regime and the shortage of cinematic equipment in Iraq under the international sanctions. Thus, the movie succeeds in bringing forth the ruins of the Gulf War, the effects of the international sanctions, and the stranglehold of Saddam’s regime.

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