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

Iraq: Aug ‘08

IWPR films break new ground in Iraqi television feature production.

A number of Iraqi TV stations have expressed an interest in broadcasting two new IWPR films, produced as part of IWPR’s mentoring and on-the-job training for Iraqi women journalists.

“Beggars of the 7th day” was made by IWPR trainee Sabreen Hussein who is a reporter for Iraqi Al-Fayha TV station. It tells the story of beggars who stand outside the mosques of the Kurdish region on Fridays. The majority of them are internally displaced people from the Arab part of Iraq.

The film tries to highlight various aspects of the issue. It profiles a family from Baghdad that came to Sulaimaniyah as a result of deteriorating security in Baghdad. The head of the family, Abdullah, says that he works as a construction labourer during the week and begs on Fridays outside the city’s main mosque.

The authorities say that some of the internally displaced people have become professional beggars and prefer begging to working. Officials say that the trend will continue for as long as there is no legislation to tackle it.

The second film looks at the life of a young actress determined to pursue a career in the theatre despite society’s disapproval of female performers.

“Knocking on the theatre’s doors” was made by IWPR trainees, Rasha Adnan, a reporter for Alsumaria TV, and Zuhur Najm, from Azadi TV in Kirkuk.

The film profiles a young actress, Didar, from Sulaimaniyah who just finished performing her first play. Unlike many of her female colleagues, her family is extremely supportive of her and pays little attention to social prejudices.

Rasha and Zuhur spent a day with Didar at home. They interviewed her parents and her brothers and sisters. They also spoke to her colleagues at the theatre. From the interviews they conducted it became clear to them how difficult it was for girls to persuade their families to allow them to pursue unconventional careers.

Many of those invited to a screening of the films at IWPR’s studio said they felt that these kinds of TV features where there’s an emphasis on writing to pictures were breaking new ground and will prove to be a valuable contribution to local television.

Hiwa Osman, IWPR’s Iraq country director, said that the broadcasts are distinct from the sort of TV features Iraqis are accustomed to.

“In Iraqi TV feature production, the words don’t complement the pictures. We’re trying to change that. Writing the script was the most challenging part of the production for the trainees,” he said.

The trainee film-makers were mentored throughout by IWPR’s TV trainer Horen Gharin who said the on-the-job training proved to be effective.

“The trainees think that they learnt everything they need from the theory part of the training, but when it comes to the practical application, they discover many more tricks of the trade,” he said.

Osman agreed, “The best way to train a journalist is to show them and not tell them. We told them in the classroom how a film is produced. This is an opportunity to show them how to do it.”

A number of local TV stations in Kurdistan have expressed an interest in broadcasting the films and adopting IWPR’s style of broadcast writing. TV stations in Baghdad will also be approached.


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