Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide

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    • Directed by: Zaradasht Ahmed
    • Released: 2018 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2016
Running Time: 86 min + 58 min classroom version
Format: NTSC DVD
Language: Arabic with English subtitles
Includes English SDH 
Subjects: Middle Eastern Studies, Immigrant and Refugee Studies



This is a story of a man struggling for survival in Iraq...

...where war has become the norm. The enemy is invisible, and neither women nor children have a safe hideout. 36-year-old Iraqi Nori Sharif, is husband, father of four children, and a nurse. He becomes a videographer, documenting life over several years in one of Iraq’s most dangerous provinces: Diyala.

By following Nori we take part in his daily life. We are with him as another war erupts after the American retreat in 2011; a new war without fronts, uniforms or common rules. Without choosing sides, Nori records destruction as well as hope from this war zone. But it is the beginning of the end. The film stretches over a period of five years, beginning with the hope of a better future, to witnessing the growth of ISIS (the Islamic State), and eventually the fall of Nori’s home town. As Nori keeps filming throughout this period of time, he begins to turn the camera on himself.

Nori’s narrative represents persistence, hope and faith. But, in this new reality of being squeezed between two giant forces – ISIS on one side and the Iraqi militias on the other, is it possible to remain impartial and keep his family intact? Will he and his family survive, and be able to rebuild the country and the oasis that lies hidden behind the smoke and rubble?

Background on the Issue

Fifteen years after the US-led invasion of Iraq the country continues to dominate the headlines with stories of sectarian violence, bombings, kidnappings, corruption and dire poverty, human displacement and a massive refugee crisis.

Institutions and infrastructures are breaking down, and the de-stabilization of the region continues to reach new areas. The country has become a breeding ground for new and diverging religious, ethnic and political conflicts that also spreads far beyond the Arabian Peninsula. A lot of land is now in the Islamic state’s (IS) hands; a seemingly undefined army of international jihadist, mercenaries, ex-military and clans that don’t seem to have any greater common long-term strategy than power and influence.

During the first years after the US invasion a war pattern was obvious: that being between the occupier and the opposition forces. But in 2006-8 there was a change in character; ethnic sectarianism flared up and the violence became increasingly unpredictable and random. Families, tribes and communities were divided, and it became difficult to distinguish friend from foe. How can one give a truthful picture of this state of war when the areas are forbidden “no-go”-zones, and the survivors are without a voice? By training and directing Nori Sharif to film his surrounding, this has become a possibility.

Awards & Festivals - 17 prestigious awards to date

Best Feature Length Documentary – IDFA (top prize)
Audience Award, International Selection - Thessaloniki International Film Festival 2017
Best Film Award, International Competition - One World Film Festival 2017 (largest human rights film festival in the world)
Best Feature Length Documentary - Dokfilm, Norway 2017
Best Film Main Competition -, DokFest Münich 2017
Special Jury Award - Nordic/Docs 2017
Best Documentary - Berkshire International Film Festival 2017
Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking + Opening Night Film - Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2017
Special Founders Prize For Citizen Journalism - Traverse City Film Festival
Amanda Award – Best Documentary (equivalent to Oscar in Norway)
Europe Orient Documentary Film Festival 2017 – Best Director Zaradasht Ahmed
Audience Award - Twin Cities Arab Film Festival 2017
Best Documentary – Bergen International Film Festival 2017
SMart Award - Festival des Libertés, Belgium 2017 
Audience Award - 44th Internationales Filmwochenende in Würzburg, Germany 2018
Best Feature Documentary - 2018 Social Impact Media Awards
Jury Award - 2018 Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival


Highly Recommended by Video Librarian
" Much of Zaradasht Ahmed’s devastating PBS-aired documentary was filmed by its subject: Nori Sharif, an engaging Iraqi medic, who viewers first see in 2011 working in the emergency section at Jalawla Central Hospital in Diyala. On the director’s suggestion, Sharif takes a camera with him wherever he goes ... [Sharif's] first-hand documentation of a country destabilized by destructive forces from within and without deserves a wide audience. Including both the full-length version and an abridged classroom edition, this is highly recommended." - K. Fennessy for Video Librarian
In The Press
"★★★★ - “Nowhere to Hide’ gives a gift: Making Iraq under the Islamic State no longer a faraway crisis.” The Washington Post, Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday

“Nowhere to Hide is the most essential documentary of the year." Chicago Reader

★★★★ - Nowhere to Hide” makes it not just impossible, but unconscionable, to turn away.” Chicago Tribune 

“Bracing doc ‘Nowhere to Hide’ puts you on the ground and on the run in war-torn Iraq... potently immersive… a deeply personal perspective of the volatility in Iraq over the years following the 2011 pullout of American troops. Rather than taking a more traditional documentary-filmmaking approach, Kurdish Norwegian director Zaradasht Ahmed shrewdly chose to hand his camera over to Sharif, a soulful, eloquent father of four whose firsthand interactions provide an affecting portrait of ordinary civilians caught in an endless crossfire between Islamic State and Shiite and Kurdish factions… offers an uneasy prognosis that is at once graphically gut-wrenching and doggedly life-affirming.” Los Angeles Times

“Raw immediacy that’s both appropriate and involving…gripping portrait…buoyed by Mr. Sharif’s cheery personality” The New York Times - CRITICS' PICK!  

“Some great documentaries cut through the inessentials and help you make sense of an apparently senseless world. Others have the opposite effect: They shock you into an even greater confoundment, demonstrating, moment by moment, how irrational the world really is. Nowhere to Hide is in the latter camp. It’s an “experiential” doc, a first-person view of the disintegration of Iraq as it happens…very beautiful guitar soundtrack… No one can make sense of what is happening to this and other families. But they must film it.” – David Edelstein,  New York Magazine / Vulture 
About the Director
Director and Photographer Zaradasht Ahmed is a Kurdish/Norwegian Filmmaker. He was born and raised in Northern Iraq. His previous work includes the award-winning “Road to Diyarbakir” and “Fata Morgana”. His latest film “Nowhere to Hide” has won several prestigious international prizes including Best Feature Length Documentary at IDFA (2016), Best Documentary at the One World Human Rights Festival (2017), the Audience Award at Thessaloniki Film Festival (2017), the Nestor Almendros Prize for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch FF (New York 2017), the Citizen Journalists prize from Traverse City FF (2017), and the Norwegian AMANDA for Best Documentary (2017). Zaradasht has many years of experience working with documentary filmmaking in the Middle East, North-Africa, and Asian regions, as well as experience training locals in documentation.