Norman B. Schwartz
a true story
Registed WGA West 1397050 email@example.com
INT. ABU ALI HOUSE LIVING ROOM AFTERNOON
A birthday party in progress in a comfortable middle-class
house in the Al-Amiriya district of Baghdad.
The hostess, Sawsan, an attractive forty year old woman
dressed in a colorful floral patterned dress, wearing jewel-
ery, and with a chignon fixed atop of her head, assisted by
her teenage daughter Shayma, pass through a room serving all
sorts of honeyed sweets and Iraqi delicacies to their many
The host, ABU ALI, a prosperous Iraqi businessman in his
fifties, dressed up in an elegant brown suit, sits in a com-
fortable chair and drinks his tea while arguing with his
neighbor, an obese man, DR. ABU HASSAN, while other IRAQI
MEN of the same age listen.
(to Abu Hassan)
If we all felt the way you do, my
friend, we would be still living in
tents in the desert or catching
fish on the banks of the Tigris.
Abu Hassan, in no way offended, laughs at his friend’s
observation and reaches for a sweet, which he devours in one
At the same time, a dozen exited YOUNG CHILDREN, aged three
to eight years old, all dressed up for the occasion, run
around the living room making a great deal of noise as they
are chased by the OLDER CHILDREN.
Escaping from the games, SALMA, age four, Abu’s Ali youngest
daughter, rushes up to her father.
Baba Baba! Ilyad pushed me again.
Ohhhh! Show me your wound.
Abu Ali’s lifts up Salma and places her on his lap and ex-
amines his daughter with mock seriousness.
ABU ALI (CON’T)
Oh that’s terrible. We need a
Abu Ali turns to Dr. Abu Hassan.
ABU ALI (CON’T)
Doctor, can you have a look at this
Abu Hassan places his glasses on his nose and inspects the
little girl with great care. Pointing with his finger, he
touches Salma’s knee.
Let me blow on it and the pain will
ABU HASSAN (CONT’D)
Abu Ali and Salma look at each other and start laughing at
the doctor’s amusing trick. Abu Hassan grabs yet another
sweet and swallows it.
EXT. ABU ALI’S HOUSE GARDEN AFTERNOON
Outside in the garden, Abu Ali’s three sons--ALI, eighteen
years old, HUSSEIN, twelve, and MUSTAFA, eight-- are playing
Hide and Seek. Their neighbor, teenager MOHAMED, has joined
them in the game.
Ali, standing in the middle of the other boys who surround
him, points his finger at his brother Husain.
Your turn to count now, Husain.
Ali pulls Husain to the wall of the house, and puts his
hands over Husain’s eyes.
Count until fifty.
Fifty? He only knows how to count
until thirty, the poor guy.
That’s homework you’re giving him,
Don’t mention school please!
Ready? Start at three, two, one,
Ali, Mustafa and Mohamed each run in different directions
while Husain stands by the wall counting.
One, two, three, four, five, six,
seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven,
Ali reaches a corner of the garden where tools and old bi-
cycles are stored. He turns to find little Mustafa beside
Go and find another place. Why are
you always following me?
Let me hide next to you.
No. You’re too noisy.
Mustafa leaves his brother and runs to hide behind a tree.
Twenty five, twenty six, twenty
seven, twenty eight, twenty nine,
Mustafa at his hiding place suddenly sees a German Shepherd
beside him. The dog starts barking ferociously, showing it
teeth and dribbling saliva in front of a scrawny cat who is
trying to protect its newborn kittens.
Scared to death, Mustafa can’t move. He waves his hands
wildly, hoping to be seen by his older brothers, but nobody
notices him. Slowly he manages to get away from the dog, and
then runs as fast as he can to Ali and Husain.
That dog, that dog!
He runs towards his house to get someone. His two brothers
and their friend, Mohamed, approach the dog cautiously.
Ali, do something, otherwise...
What do you want me to do?
Ali picks up a a branch from the ground and hands it to Ali.
Beat it with that.
Shakily and scared, Ali slowly approaches the dog, waves the
stick at it. The dog opens it mouth, bares its teeth, and
snarls angrily at him. Ali steps back.
INT. ABU ALI’S LIVING ROOM AFTERNOON
Inside the house, little Mustafa runs into the living
room and pushes his way through the crowd of party guests.
Out of breath, he approaches his father, still holding Salma
on his lap.
(to Abu Ali)
Baba Baba, the dog out there is
going to attack them. Quick quick!
Salma hugs her father.
Baba, I’m scare.
The cat and it kittens.
Hearing this, Sawsan stands up from where she is seated with
the other women, and walks to her husband Abu Ali.
That’s the same dog which keeps
returning again and again.
Abu Ali stands up and hands his smallest child to his wife.
Abu Ali turns to his doctor friend, Abu Hassan.
Yallah Abu Hassan. Let’s go get rid
of this kelb (dog) once for all.
Mustafa grabs his father’s hand and pulls him out to the
garden. The party guests follow them.
EXT. ABU ALI’S GARDEN AFTERNOON
Mustafa, Abu Ali, and Abu Ali’s guests cross to the place in
the garden where the dog is cowering over the cat and its
Ali, Husain and Mohamned have all bravely picked up sticks
and are waving them in front of the dog, trying to stop it
from attacking the cat and its kittens.
Abu Ali shouts at the animal.
Get lost you dirty dog, go away!
The dog doesn’t move. Abu Ali spontaneously removes one of
his shoes and throws it at the dog’s face. The dog avoids
the shoe and continues to bark ferociously. Abu Ali removes
his second shoe and targets it right at the dog’s face.
Direct hit. The animal runs away yelping.
The children and guests start laughing at Abu’s Ali ingen-
Wooooooow Baba, you are an hero!
You should have practiced some
karate instead of throwing your
Little Mustafa shows him some karate moves. His father
Well the shoe is quicker and more
You’re right, Baba. Even Bruce Lee
could not have done better.
The children and guests laugh as Abu Ali picks up his shoes.
Ali’s aged mother, SABIHA, smiles proudly at her son.
(showing shoe to Sabiha)
A very strong shoe, Mama.
Their neighbor, another old lady, UMM FATIMA, cannot resist
the opportunity to make fun of her host.
Oh yes Abu Ali. It’s very strong.
No other dogs will ever enter your
garden anymore or even dare to come
to Baghdad again because of your
Guests laugh at Umm Fatima’s joke. Sawsan appears at the
door of the garden.
Yallah (Let’s go.) Enough of dogs
and shoes! It’s time now. Let
Mustafa blow out his candles.
All start walking back to the house, all except Mustafa who
returns to the cat and its kittens. He leans down and covers
them with a cardboard box with holes punched in it.
Here you are my little cats. Nobody
will ever attack you again. From
now on I will wear Baba’s magic
Have to go now, will bring you some
cakes later...that is if uncle
Hassan leaves us any!
INT. ABU ALI’S LIVING ROOM AFTERNOON
Men, woman and children are seated around a table when the
hostess Sawsan enters from the kitchen, carrying a birth-
day cake with eight lit candles.
Her daughter, Shayma, seated in front of the piano, begins
to play the Happy Birthday song. Everyone joins in singing.
There is a framed picture of Saddam Hussain hanging on the
wall over the piano.
Happy birthday to you, Happy
birthday to you, Happy birthday,
The song ends, little Mustafa takes a deep breath and blows
out all the candles. Everyone claps. The obese doctor, Abu
Hassan, is the first to approach the boy.
I wish you all the happiness, boy.
Abu Hassan then grabs the first piece of cake cut by the
Me too uncle Hassan. I wish you all
Mustafa also grabs a piece of cake.
As cake is passed to all the guests, Shayma spontaneously
begins playing the Iraqi national anthem.
Husband and wife, Abu Ali and Sawsan’s eyes meet filled with
pride, he smiles at her and she smiles at him. Proudly, he
starts to sing the national anthem along with the old woman,
Umm Fatima, singing the loudest. Abu Ali’s mother, all her
grand children, and the rest of the guests join in.
At the end of the song, Shayma’s last note on the piano co-
incides with a ENORMOUS BLAST, a nearby explosion that rocks
the house’s walls and rattles the glasses and dishes on the
tables and in the cabinets. The adults and children all stop
singing, instantly awake to reality.
Abu Ali, followed by the men at the party, immediately rush
to comfort their family; the frightened children run to
their mother’s arms.
Shayma ignores the panic and continues playing the national
anthem while the guests gather their family members.
Thanking and hugging Abu’s Ali and his wife for the lovely
gathering, one by one the guests begin to depart.
Shayma keeps on playing until the last guest disappears from
the living room. As they do,
BAGHDAD FEBRUARY 1991
PRE-TITLE SEQUENCE ENDS:
MAIN TITLE SEQUENCE BEGINS
FADE TO BLACK:
INT. AL-AMIRIYA BOMB SHELTER NIGHT
A large bomb shelter building located in the middle of a
courtyard in the Al-Amiriya residential district of Baghdad.
The hall is furnished with double-decker beds and T.V. sets
hanging on the walls. The shelter is used by the people from
the area who come every night to find refuge from the con-
stant bombing of the city.
THREE TEENAGE BOYS make a lot of noise as they sit on the
floor playing video games.
Singing a catchy Arabic ditty, a young woman, NOOR, carrying
an infant in her arms, passes by the boys on her way to the
women’s section of the hall.
In the back of the shelter, by a wall, a group of TEENAGE
GIRLS sit on a bed, giggling as they flip the pages of
magazines and comment on latest movie star gossip. Sitting
among them, her thoughts on something else, is one of the
guests at the party, a very pretty eighteen year old girl,
BOUCHRA and her friend, NADA, the same age.
(looking at photos)
Oh this one is so handsome. The
Egyptian singer. He’s my favorite.
Almost as handsome as your Ahmed,
Bouchra blushes in embarrassment.
Further down near the hall, a middle-age couple, YUSUF, a
gruff unshaven taxi-driver, forty five, and his pretty wife
DINA, thirty seven, are trying to control their many small
children [YUSUF’S CHILDREN] who have been fighting with each
other over toys.
YUSUF takes the toys away, and hides them behind his back.
His children look at him with disappointment and surprise.
If want these back tonight, you’ll
have to calm yourselves down now!
Yusuf, they are only children. Let
Look at the other children around
here. They’re also making noises.
Other children are not mine... Any-
way I don’t think it’s a good idea
to keep coming here every night.
Where else do you want us to go?
We can all stay home at night. Why
am I the only one who sleeps in the
Someone has to stay there to
keep the burglars from stealing
One of their young daughters, IMAN, one and half years old,
crawls on the floor until she reaches her father’s feet,
pulling on his left pant’s leg. Despite his annoyance at his
wife, Yusuf lifts his daughter up into his arms and gives
the baby an affectionate kiss.
Way off in the distance, another bomb goes off. Dina brings
both her hands together in prayer.
God protect us.
No one protects us, Dina, but
He gives his daughter back to her mother.
Now I have to go to work. I’ll come
by tomorrow morning to pick you
He starts walking to the entrance of the shelter.
AL-AMIRIYA BOMB SHELTER NIGHT
The hostess Sawsan, her three sons--Ali, Husain, little
Mustafa-- and her teenage daughter Shayma arrive outside the
shelter. They all push on a heavy metal door at the entrance
to the shelter.
The door gives way slowly. They see Yusuf, the taxi driver,
coming out. As usual, he is in a hurry.
Little Mustafa is especially fond of the gruff man.
Salam, uncle Yusuf! How are you
He heads off to the street. The family, knowing Yusuf’s sour
character, simply laugh in amusement, and go through the
door into the shelter.
INT. AL-AMIRIYA BOMB SHELTER TEEN BOY’S SECTION NIGHT
At the upper level hall of the shelter, the boys spot empty
beds near their friend’s and run to drop off their night
INT. AL-AMIRIYA BOMB SHELTER WOMEN SECTION NIGHT
Sawsan goes with her daughter Shayma to the women’s sect-
ion of the shelter where they are spotted by Shayma’s class-
mate, the beautiful Bouchra, who stands up when she sees her
best friend approaching.
Shayma! Over here. I saved you the
bed next to mine.
Thank you, Bouchra.
Shayma walks over to her friend. The two girls kiss.
And thank you, aunty, for this
afternoon’s party. It was really
Sawsan smiles fondly at Bouchra.
Don’t forget the next gathering is
going to be your engagement party!
Bouchra nods in embarrassment.
Why are you so embarrassed, my
eyes? ... My parents met with Ali
Abu’s parents and they married
me with uncle Abu Ali when I was
sixteen and look today we have five
(pointing to herself)
Yes wonderful daughter!
Bouchra laughs and the two girl friends sit down together on
Girls, I have to go see about my
boys. I’ll come back later.
She leaves her daughter and friend in the women’s section.
INT. BOMB SHELTER TEEN BOY’S SECTION NIGHT
Sawsan crosses the crowded hall until she arrives in the
men’s section where she finds her three sons fighting.
Why do I have always to sleep on
Because you are younger than me.
Hurry up boys, it’s already late,
put on your pajamas and go to bed.
But there is no school Mama.
I know that but you still have to
sleep to gain strength for tomorrow
Her three boys, Ali, Mustafa, Husain, get their pajamas out
of their respective bags.
INT. BOMB SHELTER STAIRCASE NIGHT
But instead of undressing, the boys first run downstairs to
the bomb shelter bathroom. Husain removes his shirt on his
way down while Mustafa, carrying his pajamas under his arm,
concentrates on playing with his video game without looking
where he is going. His brother Ali pushes him on the stairs
and Mustafa almost falls.
Yallah, hurry up, Mustafa, you can
Give me a break. I’m winning!
INT. BOMB SHELTER BATHROOM NIGHT
Ali and Husain walk to the washbasin, take out their tooth-
brushes and toothpaste from their toilet bags. As the boys
brush their teeth, they compete with each other to see who
can finish first.
Mustafa now appears in front of them, wearing his pajamas
inside out. Husain, with white foam all over his mouth,
notices his little brother in the mirror and laughs.
Ali, look at Mustafa!
Ali turns to see Mustafa in his pajamas, smiles affection-
ately and goes over to help his youngest brother put on his
pajamas the right way. Husain takes advantage of the
moment to quickly rinse his mouth.
I finish first!
No! I did before you.
Yes, but you didn’t rinse your
Ali rushes back to the sink, rinses his mouth as his broth-
ers pack up their toilet kits and head back upstairs to the
INT. BOMB SHELTER TEEN BOY’S SECTION NIGHT
The brothers see their mother finish up making up their
Yallah boys, your beds are ready.
One by one, they reach up to their mother’s cheek and kiss
Good night Mama, etc.
They climb inside their blankets. Sawsan stands above her
youngest who is in a lower bunk.
And no more running around.
Don’t worry mama I’ll watch him.
Yes, my baby?
Sawsan leans down closer to his face.
Why can’t you stay with us tonight?
I have to take care of Baba and
Salma, my eyes. You know that.
But what about me? You can leave
Baba alone in the house for once.
You don’t even need to prepare his
dinner. He can cook his famous eggs
sandwich that I like so much.
Stop complaining to Mama all the
time. You’re supposed to be a big
man now like your brothers.
I didn’t talk to you.
Mustafa grabs his pillow and throws it at his brother.
Hey, what do you think you are
Husain throws the pillow back to him.
Enough boys, enough!
It’s him. He always has to speak.
Your brother’s right. You are a big
boy now, my eyes.
She touches his face.
And I promise, tomorrow night I
will spend the night with you
and bring Salma also.
But I want tonight!
Mustafa please! I said tomorrow!
Mustafa looks at her sadly but with resignation.
Mustafa smiles, having gotten what he wants. Sawsan kisses
Good night, my eyes. Sleep well.
INT. BOMB SHELTER WOMEN’S SECTION NIGHT
Sawsan now returns to the women’s section where her teen-
age daughter, Shayma, is in her bed writing in her diary.
Her best friend, Bouchra, is in the bed beside her.
Time to sleep, my eyes.
Sawsan moves closer to Shayma, caressing her hair.
Mama, do you remember the dress we
saw last week?
Yes, the pinkish one?
Yes yes, that one, I would love to
have it for Eid when Grandma visit
us so she can do some adjustments.
Yes sure, will have to remember the
shop where we saw it!
Easy. It’s just near Ibn Sina
OK, yes, yes. Now I remember. I’ll
buy it for you tomorrow.
Souassan stands up.
Hmmm, how lucky you are to get a
Yessss, I just fell in love with it
the instant I saw it...
Sawsan smiles at their youthful excitement and leaves the
teenagers chatting together.
Bouchra, I can’t believe that you
haven’t pick up your wedding dress
(to the other girls)
Tomorrow we will all help you
Shayma notices that Bouchra is very quiet, a sure sign that
something is troubling her.
What’s wrong, Bouchra?
After a pause..
How can I even think about a dress
when I don’t even know him?
What do you mean you don’t know
him? You and Ahmed has been in the
same class together since you were
Just because you go to school
together doesn’t mean you know
Then get to know him.
How? He’s so shy. He hardly ever
says a word.
So start a conversation.
Something that guys like.
What do guys like?
Kung Fu! He spends all his time in
the shelter watching Bruce Lee
movies with my brothers .
Shayma is very proud of having found a subject for her
Yes, talk to him about that.
The lights of the shelter begin to turn off. SHELTER PEOPLE
begin to settle down for the night.
EXT. AL-AMIRIYA SHELTER NIGHT
Outside, the last of the lights of the shelter progressively
switch off one by one. Sawsan opens the heavy metal door and
leaves the shelter.
In the shadows, an OLD WOMAN IN BLACK, wearing the tradit-
ional abaya, notices the mother leaving. Wrinkled by time,
the old woman has a cold, almost frightening expression in
her eyes. Sawsan who passes near her sees the old woman
staring at her strangely and insistently, Sawsan, without
fear returns the look, smiles and greets her.
Salam Oualikoum, aunty.
The old woman does not answer; instead she turns her back on
Sawsan and walks back into the darkness...
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