James Longley, who received an Academy Award nomination for his excellent “Iraq in Fragments,” offers this deeply moving and truly disturbing short documentary about a woman in rural Iraq whose young son is dying from AIDS contracted during a botched blood transfusion. Sari is small, visibly ill and fighting constant pain and fatigue. His mother, whose name is not given in the film, has her own battles: against Iraq’s brutally ineffective medical system, against the grueling medical regimen required to keep Sari alive (the boy cries constantly when faced with injections), and with the hardship of living in a country that has been under American military occupation for more than four years.
At 21 minutes in length, “Sari’s Mother” provides a sample of the hostile world that average Iraqis are facing. But even this sample could make the strongest person crumble and shudder. On the surface, the film is a tribute to a mother’s indefatigable spirit to keep her young son alive in the face of seemingly endless obstacles. But it also offers an angry undercurrent that clearly shows the disastrous state of affairs in Iraq. When Sari’s mother equates the American military presence with the al-Qaeda terrorists, noting she can’t tell which entity is worse, it would appear the much-ballyhooed benchmarks for measuring the success of today’s Iraq are in serious need of being redefined.
For the courage of Sari and his mother before the camera and for Longley’s masterwork behind the lens, “Sari’s Mother” is among the year’s best short films.