Showcasing Iraq by Mohamad Al-Daradji29th December 2014
Marking ten years since the US and UK led invasion of Iraq, Reel Iraq was a huge endeavour, with over 50 events in 9 cities throughout the UK. It was an overwhelming success and audiences across the UK got a chance to engage directly with Iraqi poets, filmmakers, artists, writers and musicians. Filmmaker Mohamad Al-Daradji’s film Son of Babylon was screened at the festival.
From an early age and unbeknown to my parents I sneaked to the cinema every week to watch the latest film from India – there was only ever one career choice for me.
These experiences inspired my decisions later in life; exploring filmmaking, my national identity and the issues surrounding the people of my country. Cinema can have such a profound and positive impact on people, not just as entertainment, but more importantly, as an education. I am passionate about my country and its future and feel my art, addressing post war subjects is the best way for me to enlighten as well as evoke empathy.
Iraq has a rich and colourful history and is well known in the region for its art and culture. Despite this, more recent events have ensured a different international opinion. Amidst the violence of Saddam’s regime, the resulting coalition invasion and the prolonged occupation, the international view of Iraq and its people has become distorted and negative because of its troubled situation. Though much of its infrastructure has been ruined, its film and media institutions and cinemas destroyed, in truth Iraq still holds a cultural and artistic nature, one that is slowly but surely, emerging and catching the attention of an international audience, as well as Iraq’s natives. Now more than ever there is a flurry of exciting and unique art emerging from Iraq, something that deserves recognition.
Personally, I feel it is important to show an international audience the real situation in Iraq; the people who live there and the struggles they faced and have overcome, both during and after Saddam’s regime. I want to shine a positive light and to help recognise Iraqi’s as human beings, rather than statistics on the news. I make my films for the people of Iraq, to share their stories. Of course, it is my responsibility as an Iraqi and as a filmmaker to tell the world about Iraq and also the Iraqi people themselves. When they watch the film in the cinema, they see it in a different way from international audiences; they see they are being heard as human beings and must learn from the past and Iraq’s mistakes to understand reality in a different way. For these reasons it is crucial that they are filmed on location in Iraq rather than a substitute, such as Jordan or Morocco. It is vital to the story, its message and Iraq’s existence. Hollywood films made about Iraq and the war may bring attention to Iraq but are often bias and fail to address issues facing the Iraqi people or their point of view.
Events that showcase the art and culture of Iraq, serve only to benefit its people and an international audience. The Reel Iraq Festival is a perfect example of such a function and a lifeline in preserving, securing and promoting the future of Iraqi culture globally.
First published on Reel Festivals Website on March 20th, 2013.