The glorious centerpiece of 1982’s Fitzcarraldo, in which Klaus Kinski’s lunatic outsider undertakes his passion project of bringing opera to the people of Iquitos, Peru, by having a ocean liner pulled over a mountain, was an iconic feat for both the film’s bigger-than-life hero and director Werner Herzog.
By extreme contrast, self-taught Kurdish-American filmmaker Jano Rosebiani’s mostly English-language drama — tracking an incomprehensible quest to project washed-out Charlie Chaplin shorts in the remote villages of northern Iraq — is deadened by milquetoast characters, uninspired landscape photography, and no perceptible stakes.
NYU students David (Zack Gold) and Alan (Bennett Viso) are joined on their cross-cultural road trip by a local TV star (Kurdo Galali), a pushy female journalist (Taies Farzan), and a French-Kurdish woman named Nazé (Estelle Bajou), none well-defined beyond their job titles.
They laugh and yearn and get yelled at for projecting their silent comedy on the side of a temple, but say nothing profound about life, love, cinema, or the culture around them.
A weightier goal suddenly materializes when the newly orphaned Nazé plays pied piper in the war-torn Qandil Mountains, where she tearfully reconnects with her grandfather after the Anfal genocide of the late ’80s.