When Nori Sharif gets a camera from director Zaradasht Ahmed to film life in a small Iraqi town after Americans withdrew at the end of 2011, he decides to film people who "nobody knows about". One of them is a truck driver who lost both legs due to a car bomb, but who still feels that things could have been much worse. "I could have run over someone with the truck or been in jail, and I still have my kids," he says while one of his daughters helps him up in a wheelchair.
The truck driver's astonishing gratitude is just one surprising and touching moment in Nowhere to Hide, a documentary depicting the last four years in Iraq through the eyes of Sharif, a late-30s nurse and father of four children. Sharif's compassionate and poetic documentation is narrated with unabashed honesty, and presents a humanistic portrait of a hard-pressed people, very different from the television images that have been shown around the world in recent decades.
Darker focus. Sharif's narrative is remarkable in many ways: He provides an eyewitness account of the deteriorating political situation; he gives us access to everyday life as it is lived by ordinary people trapped in the constant conflict; and because Sharif's own life so dramatically during this period – he himself becomes a refugee – his personal story takes on dimensions like a novel by Tolstoy, where we sense and feel the events of the war through the tragic details of a single life.
The film begins with Sharif describing her life "as well ... my home with my lovely wife and my four children is an oasis". He apparently believes that the film project will simply be about presenting the untold stories to people around him. And if Sharif had actually just given us a picture of the townspeople, we would still have gone from the movie far wiser: Sharif introduces us to a shepherd boy with whom he amuses himself by teaching him a traditional dance; he gives a sensitive portrayal of a disabled woman whose "bed had become her only friend" and he reflects on the situation of the neighbors who "have the war going on inside".
But in 2013 changes. . .