Film Reviews

The Deminer review: Dir. Hogir Hirori and Shinwar Kamal (2018)

You’d need a closed view of the world not to be effected, in some form, by the brutally honest and thought-provoking narrative behind documentary The Deminer. Directed by Hogir Hirori, with co-direction from Shinwar Kamal, their film offers us an awareness of events that are ever present around us, yet this viewpoint is one we’d be very unlikely to usually bear witness to.

The insightful documentary takes us into the life of Major Fakhir and his personal mission to disarm thousands of mines that have been laid across Mosul, Iraq by IS. The film is interwoven by interviews with his son and wife, who had discovered home video footage in a suitcase after his death. He was a keen home-video fan, and the found films were recorded by Fakhir’s fellow soldiers whilst working. Over time, they show us how he single-handedly disarms mines and bombs with just a pair of wire cutters and a knife, with his life on the line, across the city in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The father of eight repeatedly risks his own existence and, in his own words, he’s doing it to stop the death of others. This commitment is what makes Fakhir so unique and also makes for powerful viewing, especially when you know he’s being filmed by others from a distance.  These are real moments and this is something we’re reminded by quite early on, after routine movements set off an explosion. What’s particularly extraordinary is how undeterred Fakhir is by the near misses he encounters during his missions to cut as many wires as his can. Even after being attacked, and losing his right leg in an detonation we see on camera, he still doesn’t want innocent people to pay the ultimate price from these horrific traps and so always gets back to work as soon as he can.

It’s very easy to dismiss, and equally forget, that after Saddam Hussein was ousted, rebel factions like IS revolted and tried to take their country back, but during this time they also planted thousands of car and house bombs to kill their own people. It’s almost impossible to make sense of this from our perspective, because there’s a news media that likes to report that everyone is after ‘us’ all the time, but the truth is much deeper, much more distant from that and even more overwhelming. The Deminer importantly highlights these are normal people, like us, trying to live their lives in the best way possible, with whatever resources they have… even if it’s down to their bare hands diffusing bombs.

The Deminer is a vital watch that certainly reminds us of the chaos left behind, but also the important story of Colonel Fakhir and his genuinely heroic day-to-day actions that have consequentially saved hundreds of lives of his own Iraqi people. And, for me, that’s just an important reminder of the best of the humanity as anyone could have.

The Deminer is cinemas and on demand from 27 April

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