Angela Alsouliman
Orange Flavored Love

How far will love carry someone through the horrors of war? Or, as director Angela Alsouliman seems to put it: What is the limit of an orange?

Her short film Orange Flavored Love revolves around Nawal, a young Iraqi woman who takes care of her sick mother during war time. When the local pharmacy runs out of medicine Nawal is left to improvise. Getting hold of an orange -– a rare treat in times of scarcity – she squeezes it, figuratively speaking, until the last drop.

In a previous life the Belgo-Syrian Alsouliman, who holds a degree in economics, worked as a journalist and tv-correspondent in Libanon and Egypt. She too once took care of a sick mother. ‘But my film is not a personal testament,’ she explains. ‘As a former refugee, how-ever, I can’t ignore what was once my very own reality.’ For this reason she decided to capture the film in what was not long ago a warzone, that is, in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq which suffered greatly under its occupation by Islamic State from 2014 to 2017. Although many advised against the endeavour Alsouliman refused to settle for anything else than an on-site approach. ‘You can’t fake destruction, you know.’

And to great effect. One striking feature of the film however is the paradox of scale. In the course of Nawal’s meanderings through the city, we do sense blind and overwhelming forces of history at work. Yet Alsouliman only indirectly suggest these forces by means of bullet holes and empty cabinets, almost as if their blunt Goliathan dimensions do not fit the frame. Against this semi-visible backdrop, on the other hand, there is the human scale: the intimacy of homes, daily routines, conversations with neighbors or, indeed, a simple orange. Alsouliman paints these details (well, are they?) in colors so vivid that they overshadow the grimness of the so-called bigger picture. Orange Flavored Love therefore presents itself as anything but a tragedy, but as a tribute to humanity.

This article was originally published in Graduation / Onrust, Publication, 09.2023.
Text: Régis Dragonetti.