Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Filmmakers Take First Steps

The revival of Iraqi cinema is still in its infancy, but festival participants are pleased that filmmakers could come together at all.
By Frman Abdul-Rahman

In one of the first film festivals held in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, film makers focused on the themes of terrorism, violence, the Baath era and the current state of society.

About 50 short films made by various Iraqi filmmakers including Kurds and Arabs were shown at the festival, held in the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Erbil and sponsored by the Aveen Film Company.

The festival, held from September 1 to September 3, had an anti-violence theme.

The event was held a few days after the largest single loss of life since the March 2003 American invasion. On August 31, about 1,000 Iraqis died in the panicked chaos that ensued after someone shouted there was a suicide bomber in a large crowd of Shias taking part in a religious procession.

Many people were trampled while others jumped into the river Tigris even if they could not swim.

Anwar Shekhani, the festival manager, said the aim was to stand up to terrorists using the language of the cinema. He also said the festival showed that the insurgents are unable to ruin the lives of Iraqis.

"Although sophisticated cinematic techniques are not used in the films here, it is nice that following the fall of the Saddam regime, this is the first time a cinema festival has been organised at this level in Iraq," he said.

Director Raid Amjed, from Baghdad, showed his film titled “Future” at the festival. It dealt with the poor education system in schools and also the bad upbringing that some parents give their children, and how in turn this produces the insurgents of the future.

“The gathering of artists in this festival indicates that Iraqis are against terror and terrorists,” he said.

Sulaimaniyah-based director Taban Yaseen focused on Saddam’s acts of oppression in a work called “Army Boots”.

"Cinema is very weak in Iraq, but we hope that cinema will take a positive step forward through this festival," she said, adding that the principal success of the event was that it brought together artists from different faiths and ethnic groups.

Writer Sherzad Hasan, who reviewed the films on show, acknowledged that they were not of the highest quality, but said they were nevertheless important as a vehicle through which Iraqis revealed their feelings and concerns.

"Because of that, some of them are worthy of being shown outside Iraq," he said.

Frman Abdul-Rahman is an IWPR trainee journalist.

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