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VENICE 2018 Out of Competition

Review: ISIS, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul

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- VENICE 2018: Francesca Mannocchi and Alessio Romenzi have made an insightful documentary on the consequences of children being turned into weapons of war by ISIS in Iraq

Review: ISIS, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul

In ISIS, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul [+see also:
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, screening out of competition at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, co-directors Francesca Mannocchi and Alessio Romenzi interview teenagers and some mothers in the Iraqi city of Mosul about the three-year occupation of the city by fundamentalists ISIS, and how the liberation of the city in July 2017 has affected them. By asking those on both sides of the war, those in the resistance and those who were either fighting for ISIS themselves or had family members who did so, the answers that come back are very different from each other and are often heart-breaking. The Italian co-directors do a great job of showing that while the hostilities may have officially ended, the mental scars and confrontations between the various sides continue unabated. Even more impressive is that the co-directors’ sympathies lie with the actual condition of being a child of war, rather than with the allegiance that these children had during the fighting, by starting from the position that these are just kids being manipulated.

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In total, 500,000 children lived in Mosul during the occupation of the city. The documentary starts off in January 2018, six months after the official end of hostilities, and the buildings have nearly all been bombed out, with most homes nothing more than makeshift tents in refugee camps. The cinematography is striking, similar to the way that Werner Herzog managed to capture the beauty in destruction in his 1992 documentary essay Lessons of Darkness. A sense of foreboding comes across when a 16-year-old describes how ISIS recruited kids and persuaded them that the highest honour in life is martyrdom.

The action then darts back to November 2016, to the start of the offensive to liberate Mosul. Mannocchi is one of the top Italian journalists covering the region, and in 2016, she won the prestigious Premiolino Italian journalism award. Together with war photographer Romenzi, she made If I Close My Eyes for Italian television in 2016, focusing on the lost generation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. They concentrate, and have great insights, on the human cost of war and the lasting psychological impact of being in a conflict situation, and are less concerned about the politics or the propaganda of the aggressors, although they do use some footage from ISIS recruitment videos to great effect here. Ending the movie with footage shot as recently as May, the co-directors show the food shortages and the oppression, and most remarkably, they manage to make audiences forget any prejudices they might have about the combatants and simply want us to sympathise with the plight of the manipulated youth.

ISIS, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul was produced by FremantleMedia Italia and Rai Cinema in cooperation with Italy’s Wildside and Germany’s CALA Filmproduktion GmbH. Its international sales are handled by Israel’s Cinephil.

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