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‘Hanging Gardens’ Director & Cast Talk Sex Dolls In Iraq

Iraqi writer-director Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji, whose film Hanging Gardens won the top prize at the Red Sea International Film Festival this week, drew upon his own experiences when writing the script for his debut feature film. 

“The story comes from my personal experience and I was waiting for a friend of mine at the University of Baghdad and it was tough the streets at that time where the Americans heavily existed military-wise in Iraq and militias were fighting each other and it was chaos at that time,” said the director at Deadline’s Red Sea Studio in Jeddah, who was joined by cast members Wissam Diyaa, Akram Mazen Ali and Hussein Mohammed Jalil. 

“A friend of mine was a bit late and later on he appeared with a plastic bag in his hand and he said, ‘Guys let’s go to the toilet’ and we went to the toilet and we opened the plastic bag and suddenly he basically revealed a sex toy.” 

He added, “For us, for Iraqis it was the first time seeing something like it, it was so surprising for us.” 

Al Daradji co-wrote the script with Margaret Glover and the story follows As’ad, a 12-year-old rubbish picker who adopts an American sex doll from the Baghdad dumps and crosses into a perilous red zone, finding himself caught in the crossfire. The title won Venice’s 2021 Final Cut for best film in post-production and launched at that festival’s Horizons Extra sidebar earlier this year. 

The director said he was inspired to write this story from an Iraqi perspective after seeing the Clint Eastwood-directed 2014 pic American Sniper, which sees Bradley Cooper star as deadly sniper Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who had four tours in the Iraq War. 

“What really made me write Hanging Gardens was the American film American Sniper,” said Al Daradji. “I watched it back in London at Leicester Square in the cinema and it was, for me as an Iraqi, a very upsetting film in a way. Seeing an American sniper kill Iraqis, accused of being terrorists for no reason and no proof, it upset me so much. That’s why I went back and I wrote Hanging Gardens to tell basically what Iraqis feel post invasion.”

Take a look at the video above. 

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