Fiction, director: Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji, Iraq/Palestine/Saudi Arabia/Egypt/United Kingdom, 117 min., Arab. with En. ST
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In post-war Baghdad, 12-year old As’ad (Hussain Muhammad Jalil) and his older brother Taha (Wissam Diyaa) scrape a living searching for discarded metals and plastics at the city’s vast rubbish dump, ironically named after the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon. One day, As’ad discovers an American sex doll. When he brings the taboo item home, Taha assaults him for ruining their reputation. As’ad retreats to Hanging Gardens to make a new home for himself and his new “companion”, ending up inside an abandoned military armed vehicle. When his 14 year-old friend Amir (Akram Mazen Ali), finds out about the doll, he suggests pimping it up to the people of the area, a plan which surprisingly, is a total success. As’ad, however, looks at the doll as something more than a sex object, while the local crime lord and his henchmen take notice of the scheme and are not particularly happy about it. Hanging Gardens, Daradji’s debut feature film, is a moving coming-of-age story which remarkably balances between humour and drama. It premiered at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival and went on winning the Golden Yusr for Best Feature Film and Best Cinematography in the Red Sea International Film Festival.