Directed by Zaradasht Ahmed
The experience of sitting through this documentary can best be described as harrowing, gruesome, scary, and deeply depressing. At yet, I have to recommend it. You’ll be a better person for seeing Nowhere to Hide.
In 2011, as American troops left Iraq, the filmmakers gave a small video camera to Nori Sharif, a hospital nurse living and working in Jalawla, and asked him to record everything he could. Jalawla isn’t just anyplace; it’s in central Iraq’s “triangle of death” – the center of fighting for years.
Sharif narrates the film as well as shooting much of it. Other people – presumably friends and family – shot the rest so that Sharif could be an onscreen presence. Early on, he describes how the American invasion changed his work, so that he primarily cared for the victims of seemingly endless violence.
When the Americans left, the violence stayed behind. There is fighting between Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd, and factions we haven’t even heard of. Sharif doesn’t take sides; he tends the wounded, most of whom are innocent bystanders. He also must care for and protect his wife and children.
What he sees is horrible. One man was intentionally crippled by al Qaeda. Another lost two sons to beheadings. Who did it and why? We don’t know. Sharif films a peaceful protest violently attacked by the Iraqi army that is supposed to protect civilians. One dead body found after the march was clearly executed with his hands cuffed behind his back.
At one point, Sharif uses a metaphor that clearly comes from his medical training. He refers to the fighting around him as an “undiagnosed war.” He can see the symptoms – maimed and dead bodies – but he can’t see the virus doing the damage.
In 2014 (Sharif kept the camera for a long time), ISIS came marching towards Jalawla. Sharif stayed in the deserted hospital as long as he could, but eventually he took his family and fled. With the protagonist and his loved ones in danger, Nowhere to Hide becomes a very different kind of film.
In a relatively safe America, we occasionally read about massacres of innocents in the Middle East, and barely react. We’re far more concerned about smaller attacks here or in Europe.
We need a documentary like Nowhere to Hide to remind us that the horrors in less white parts of the world are just as tragic as the ones that surprise us in the West.