The Deminer

 

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Portrait of a man who, although unknown to many, deserves the recognition accorded him here.

 
Deminer, The

  

This is a film that becomes increasing impressive as you watch it. A work by Hogir Hirori working with Shinwar Kamal as his co-director, this documentary focuses on a Kurdish colonel, Fakhir Berwari, and it is clear from the outset that this remarkable man is a defuser of mines in Iraq whose courage and determination cannot but arouse our admiration. However, to start with the impression is that his story may not be particularly suited to being the subject of a feature film, even one with the relatively short length of 83 minutes.

 

It is one of the colonel’s sons, Abdulla, who talks about his father and invites us to watch with him videos kept by Fakhir Berwari showing his work in Mosul between 2003 and 2008. Understandably, the quality of these videos is unexceptional and, even though the introductory remarks referring to Fakhir in the past tense suggest that he may not have survived, we know that, dangerous as his task is from the start, his life is initially safe (the video extracts are seen year by year chronologically). There have been compelling film dramas over the years about the defusing of bombs and booby traps from The Small Back Room (1949) to The Hurt Locker (2008) but their power largely comes from our awareness that a fatal move could bring death at any moment. Lacking that, the early scenes of The Deminer are informative but muted.

 

It is when Fakhir proves to be less safe than we had thought that this film starts to grip and as his bravery becomes ever greater and more extraordinary despite daunting setbacks, The Deminer gains enormously in power. The film cannot fully explain the depth of Fakhir’s dedication but it contains two distinct declarations by him when he is asked why he does what he does. Nevertheless, we may still wonder how fair it is to his wife and family who have to live for years with the knowledge that death could easily take him at any moment. Even so, Fakhir Gerwari’s life of service is inspiring and renders him the most humane of heroes. Well before the end, those early doubts about the film’s effectiveness have been long banished becoming but a distant memory: the impact builds and builds to such an extent that it has the power to remain with us long after the film is over.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Fakhir Berwari, Abdulla Berwari, Sheyma Berwari, Ghizi Berwari.

 

Dir Hogir Hirori with Shinwar Kamal, Pro Antonio Russo Merenda and Hogir Hirori, Screenplay Higor Hirori, Ph Shinwar Kamal, Firas Bakrmani and Erik Vaallsten, Ed Higor Hirori, Music Mohammed Zaki.

 

Lolav Media/Ginestra Film/SK Production-Dogwoof.
83 mins. Sweden. 2017. Rel: 27 April 2018. Cert. 15.