When Adnan Comes Home

The Human Cost of the War in Iraq

When Adnan Comes Home In Baghdad, 17-year-old Adnan is arrested for theft, accused of stealing a length of cable. A fire in the prison leaves him horribly burned: he is unable to eat, sleep or use his hands unaided. As his family struggle to reconcile their moral objections to his actions with their love for their son, Adnan waits, alone, for the operation that might save his fingers - and the judge's ruling that might save his life.
Adnan's family are vividly portrayed in this deeply personal footage of their life in Baghdad. His father, "ashamed" of his son's crime and convinced it stems from his lack of religious faith, takes months to approach his relatives to ask for the money they need to hire a lawyer. Adnan's older brother is torn between affection for his wayward brother and the fear that he will be looked down on because of Adnan's actions. Like Adnan, he cannot get a job - but unlike him, he refuses to fall into the only options left for young men who need to support their families: "robbery and looting".

"I know you aren't proud of me," Adnan tells his father. "God has punished me." He watches the footage of his newborn niece in tears, wishing he could be part of the family life he once took for granted. The stigma attached to being a prisoner is clear in his medical treatment, as nurses openly admit that they do not want to give him blood from the blood-bank when they find out he was arrested.

"He's going to be a burden on me," Adnan's father says. But his mother is insistent: "we won't stop loving him." This intense, personal footage shows the strength of family ties and the challenge of finding justice in Iraq's harsh legal system.


The Producers

Filmmaker Andrew Berends strives to tell intimate and meaningful stories, even in the midst of volatile environments. Berends received the International Documentary Association “Courage Under Fire” award for THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER about an Iraqi family whose oldest son was killed by an American patrol. WHEN ADNAN COMES HOME, also filmed in Iraq, about a teenager badly burned in a fire while in boy’s prison in Baghdad was awarded “Best Documentary” at Vail International Film Festival. Berends’ most recent photographic work documenting the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake for was featured on the Independent Film Channel’s “IFC Media Project.”

Making The Film

“The most exciting aspect of filming was the openness of his family. As an American traveling to Iraq in the first years of the war, I feared that access would be challenging. During my first weeks in the country, four American contractors were killed and burned in Fallujah, the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the first major battles in Fallujah and Najaf broke out, the Shia uprising started, and one of the first American hostages was beheaded. But with Adnan’s family, the Iraqi Arab Islamic culture of hospitality prevailed. They welcomed me in their home allowing full access to the family, including the women, and shared this tragic story as it unfolded.

I have learned time and again that in documentary filmmaking, most of the barriers we encounter only exist in our own imagination.”

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