Special Jury Award, 2019 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Special Jury Mention, 2018 New Orleans Film Festival
Not many folks would stare at a barren, dry field in the Texas Panhandle and be reminded of Iraq. And yet for artist Lahib Jaddo, the land’s psychic umbilical cord to her past might be why she remains long after her kids moved away, furiously painting old memories set against a Texas / Iraq landscape. Lying somewhere between experimental and home movie, filmmaker Nadia Shihab’s debut documentary JADDOLAND is a film as much about the shiftiness of place and personhood, as it is about Shihab’s curiosity as she gets reacquainted with a mother who evolves away from her in surprising ways.
Shot over five years, JADDOLAND quietly complicates flatness. It also complicates how we imagine a middle aged Iraqi woman living alone in a white Texan town, or how diaspora supposedly functions. Shihab captures her mother’s voracious artmaking and their acrobatic collaborations which transform into paintings. There are mundane video chat sessions peppered with stories of ISIS and a grandfather who visits and exercises slowly in his pajamas. Through it all, her mother’s unrelenting looking, reframing, and revising persist.
The unusual diaspora film that doesn’t look back but focuses on the present tense, JADDOLAND measures distance in arm’s lengths, that intimate yardstick connected to planted feet, and a span that allows a good look at what’s held in hand. In this case, holding Shihab’s hand is her mother Lahib on the plains of Jaddoland, bending their shared arm to create never imagined, unpredictably new angles.