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

Iraq: March ‘08

IWPR’s first filmmaking course results in six short documentaries on women’s issues.
Thirteen Iraqi journalists with little experience in television production learnt the basics of filmmaking on an intensive course organised and sponsored by IWPR Iraq.

The journalists, 12 of whom were women, produced short documentaries focusing on female issues during the course, which was held in IWPR Iraq’s training centre from March 26 to March 31, the Institute’s first such filmmaking training session.

The journalists, who work in four different Iraqi provinces, had experience in television presentation, radio, print and online media. However, none had written or produced documentaries, and several said they found it to be a rewarding challenge.

“I learnt a lot and was able to carry the camera fearlessly and bravely,” said one female journalist from Baghdad, who asked not to be named because of security concerns.

The trainees produced six documentaries on women in northern Iraq. These included a journalist; a struggling house cleaner and mother of 13; a successful filmmaker and photographer; a pioneering businesswoman; and a dancer.

“The stories were all interesting,” said instructor Regina Heidecke, a German filmmaker and a professor of arts at the University of Frankfurt.

She said the women were “really willing to learn”.

During the intensive course, students learnt the basics of working a camera, editing, interviewing, researching and creating a storyboard. Afterwards, they brainstormed story ideas and were given assignments.

They then hit the streets to begin making films. After five days of hard work, each team presented its film in front of IWPR staff and classmates. Heidecke was impressed that the trainees could put together the short films, which were five to six minutes long, in such a short period of time.

“They performed under pressure,” she said. “I really admire them because they didn’t give up. In the end, I think they were very proud.”

Azeez Mahmood, a trainee from Sulaimaniyah, works in print and online journalism and had no television experience prior to the course, said she enjoyed learning a wide variety of skills, including how to shoot footage and how to plan documentaries through the use of storyboards.

The course was “extremely intense”, said the student from Baghdad.

She praised IWPR training of female journalists, saying the courses “help boost their self-confidence and openly express their views. They are given freedom and are able to overcome obstacles that stand in their way”.

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