Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq Film Directors Look to Build 'Baghdadwood'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq Film Directors Look to Build 'Baghdadwood'

Article excerpt

Iraq film production remains nascent, but two directors are opening the country's first film production center in a bid to lure investors and bring native filmmakers back home.

The windows that would catch a breeze off the Tigris River are cracked, the brick floors covered in debris. But as Oday Rasheed wrests off a padlock and looks around the historic house in the commercial heart of Baghdad, he sees the future of the country's film industry.

Mr. Rasheed points to rusting cans of film stacked in teetering piles and moldering in the heat. They are Iraq's film archives - brought for safekeeping by the Ministry of Culture before the 2003 war. "This is the remains of our heritage - the whole of Iraq's film industry," says Rasheed. He plans to gradually send the celluloid negatives of the hundred or so films dating to 1946 to France to be restored.

Iraqi cinema had its heyday in the 1940s, mostly producing romantic musicals. After the revolution and the rise of the Baath Party, movies were used for political purposes. Now, postwar, filmmakers have freedom - but none of the infrastructure. That's where Rasheed's and fellow director Mohamed al-Daradji's production center comes in.

"Iraq after the war is now like Italy and Germany after the war," says Rasheed, referring to the artistic challenges in a country emerging from war and dictatorship. "There will be bad films and ... good films. The main thing is to do them.... There would be no Federico Fellini without Italian cinema - he is there because there was an Italian film industry."

The two men are key players in the revival. Rasheed's "Underexposure" was the first postwar feature film - using expired film bought from looters after the US invasion and financed by selling his possessions. It won Best Film at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2005. His film "Qarantina," the story of a professional assassin who shares a house with a poor family, will be released later this year. Duradji's "Son of Babylon," now in distribution, tells of an Iraqi woman and her grandson searching for her son. …

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