By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, June 30, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
Politically charged, video vérité war documentaries have been appearing so frequently (and so similarly) in recent years that it becomes easy to callously label their depictions of pain and suffering as genre cliches. It feels grossly cavalier to dismiss films with such seemingly noble intentions, but it’s also impossible to categorize an anonymous brand of cinema as a credit to the artistic medium. Few if any of these films boast distinctive formal values, and most aim for a simplistic, middle-of-the-road message, so even a highly personal story of life during perpetual wartime like Zaradasht Ahmed’s Nowhere to Hide seems strangely faceless and distant. The film follows Nori Sharif, a big-hearted medic from the Iraqi town of Jalawla, as he treats the beleaguered villagers and protects his adorable family in the years following the American withdrawal. An initial sense of uncertainty in the region quickly descends into the chaos of sectarian violence, and Nori and his family are finally forced to flee when ISIS takes over their town. Incredibly powerful scenes and images abound, but Nowhere to Hide is ultimately too concerned with brushing broad strokes to stand out in this sadly crowded field.