Iraq war flick marks industry comeback

Suffocated by years of dictatorship and UN sanctions, Iraq’s movie industry is staging its first post-war come back with a feature film shot amid the rubble of Baghdad and the US-led occupation.

    Initial invasion to be beamed on movie screens

    Called Underexposed, the film is to narrate the lives of young Iraqis in the first three days after the fall of Baghdad when US and British tanks rolled into the capital on 9 April, combining real footage of the war with fictional scenes.

    It will only be the second Iraqi feature film made since the United Nations slapped a blanket embargo on Iraq in 1990 after ousted President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

    Underexposed’s director Uday Rashid, 30, said shooting would start next week and should be wrapped up within four months.

    The story will be “centred on the problems of the 30-something generation in the first three days after the fall” of the government, said Rashid.

    “This film shows life for our generation has been lost to the Baath party and the American occupation, hence the choice of the title.

    “We’ve gone from one repression to another. For a proud and dignified people it’s a huge tragedy that we haven’t won the liberty that has been granted us.”

    Occupied areas

    The documentary part of the film will be shot in the districts of Baghdad where US soldiers are based.

    “It’s real-life cinema and even if it isn’t great, the film will definitely be heartfelt. Filming a child in the ruins should made it easy to elicit sympathy,” said Rashid.

    "We’ve gone from one repression to another. For a proud and dignified people it’s a huge tragedy that we haven’t won the liberty that has been granted us"

    Uday Rashid, Iraqi film director

    The director bought the film on Iraq’s thriving post-war black market that emerged amid the US and British invasion of the country and widespread looting.

    The movie will be shot using Kodak film which the American company stopped producing 20 years ago, said Rashid, adding the company promised to develop it free of charge.

    A sample of the film has already been developed successfully at Kodak laboratories in Beirut.

    While the Iraqi film industry thrived under the monarchy until the 1958 revolution, it went down hill under Hussein’s dictatorship.

    Covert culture group

    Rashid is a founding member of a group of 35 Iraqis who call themselves the Survivors.

    Including two women, the group is made up of various kinds of artists from different ethnic backgrounds and faiths who are helping with the filming and screenplay.

    Originally set up in 1992 with 13 people as an underground culture club, staging closed-showing of plays and poetry readings, the Survivors published its “founding statement” 20 days after Baghdad was invaded.

    US company Kodak promised to
    develop Rashid's film for free

    Less than a month after occupation forces entered Iraq, the group staged a free performance of a play called They Dropped by Here in the city’s ruined al-Rashid theatre.

    “It’s a way to explain that it wasn’t Baghdad that fell but the (former) regime,” said Samir Qahtan, a performing arts' graduate and actor.

    Rashid made two self-financing documentaries during the UN sanctions: one on Iraqi children and another on artists’ impressions of Baghdad.

    Sponsored by the former culture ministry, he also worked on a film of the siege of Baghdad until the original was destroyed during the US-led bombing.

    SOURCE: AFP


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