Achieving a broader perspective on war as a whole is a powerful motivator in humanity striving to live in a world without conflict. The new short film, ‘Thirteen,’ showcases how a female CIA operative changes her perspective on war after she’s captured by ISIS and interacts with a 13-year-old ISIS militant.
To honor that powerful shift in attitude, the war movie will have its West Coast Premiere on Thursday, June 8 at 5p.m. at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The screening will be included in the featured Fusion Short Films section of the Dances With Films Festival.
‘Thirteen’ was written, directed and produced by Sasha Sibley. The short film stars Jolene Andersen, Mason Moghimi and Iyad Hajjaj. Following the drama’s screening at the Dances With Films Festival, Sibley and line producer Shadow Dragu-Mihai will participate in a Q&A session.
The following synopsis has been released for the short film:
‘Thirteen’ is a film that takes place entirely within the confines of a military tent on the front-lines of a battle between ISIS and the Kurds. At the outset of the film, a female U.S. operative named Silvia (Jolene Andersen) is being waterboarded by Mubarak (Iyad Hajjaj), an ISIS military leader who is attempting to get intel from her. He continues to torture her, but she refuses to succumb to the pain, spitting in his face and taunting him.
Ultimately, Mubarak is forced to prematurely finish the interrogation process when one of his men enters the tent and informs him that he is needed on the battlefield. He takes all of his men with him, leaving behind one small masked figure to guard Silvia.
She quickly realizes this figure (wielding a gun that is nearly his own size) is a child of only thirteen years-old. His name is Musa (Mason Moghimi), and he has joined the militants in the hopes of seeking revenge on the Americans who killed his family. For this reason, he despises Silvia and everything she represents. They get into a fiery argument, as she tries to convince him that he’s on the wrong side, but when he reveals his past, she begins to understand. Soon her maternal instincts begin to kick in as she tries to save him at all costs. As the tide begins to turn in the battle outside, Silvia realizes she must convince Musa to escape.
Sibley has released the following statement about ‘Thirteen’:
Recently, after a screening of ‘Thirteen’ at Worldfest Houston, I was approached by a veteran who wanted to personally thank me for making this film. He particularly spoke about the film’s portrayal of the character Musa, a thirteen-year-old boy who is fighting for ISIS, and how he felt the film humanized him. This feedback was incredibly rewarding to hear because in many ways, I felt he put into words exactly what I was trying to say with this film and with Musa.
In constructing Musa’s character, my aim was to give him three-dimensionality and motivations that we could understand. I wanted to avoid stereotyping, simplifying or abridging his character in any way, with the hopes of instead legitimizing his thoughts and emotions, and allowing the audience to mediate on them. Ultimately, my hope was to promote greater understanding and to acknowledge the humanity of those whom we often give the least credence.
I think it’s important to make a distinction between fighting the enemy and dehumanizing the enemy. Often in war times we find ourselves engaged in the latter to achieve the ends of the former. However, I think this is wrong. If anything, we would do better to understand those who fight us. War is messy and consists of many shades of grey. There are no absolutes. One right action can have a ripple effect that leads to several wrongs. Consider Musa’s past. Perhaps his parents were known terrorists and were killed in order to save countless other lives. Or perhaps they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. But does it really matter? Are his actions in any way more or less warranted based on the circumstances of his parents’ deaths? Are his emotions any less valid?
The aim of this film is not to politicize the current conflict in any way, but instead to offer a broader perspective on war as a whole. Inherently it is tragic, and often leads to a cycle of more war and violence. My sincerest hope is that we will one day achieve a world without it.