Iraq's Theatre of Dreams

An acting group express Iraqis' hopes and fears for the future on stage and on film.

    The Dark Film group aims to reflect the
    harsh realities of life in Baghdad
    This acting company comprises Sunni, Shia, Kurd and Christian students from Baghdad's fine arts university.
    Their inspiration comes from everyday life in Baghdad. "I want to talk about the car bombs, the bombings," says Bashir.
    "I want to talk about the bad men who want to destroy our ambitions."
    In their new play Intensive Care Unit a young woman loses her leg in a car bomb explosion.

    Al-Majedi says the actors take their inspiration
    from everyday life in Baghdad

    "My leg is gone," she laments. "The explosion took it far away, I wish I had gone with my leg."
    The doctor tells her not to worry: "You are beautiful, the explosions are ugly, and soon the new security plan of prime minister Al-Maliki will solve everything."
    The group's first production was a movie called Ahlam - the Arabic word for 'dreams'. It was shot on the streets of Baghdad and its outskirts in 2005, a time when the violence was already rampant.
    It depicts the dreams Iraqis had when the Americans first arrived and how quickly they were shattered.
    "[Iraqis] understood that the Americans were only going to protect their own interests and not the Iraqi people," says Bashir al-Majed.

    "[The occupation forces] accused us of shooting films about terrorism and selling them to Al Jazeera"

    Bashir al-Majedi, the Dark Film group

    For him, the turning point was when, in April 2003, American tanks sealed off the ministry of oil while looters were destroying all the country's institutions.
    The filming did not go smoothly: "We had a lot of troubles with the occupation forces," says Majed.

    They were filming in al-Dora, a Sunni stronghold south of Baghdad, when they were apprehended by US soldiers.

    "They accused us of shooting films about terrorism and selling them to Al Jazeera," he says.
    Means of escape

    On another occasion, they were kidnapped by an armed group and one of the technicians was shot in the leg.

    The acting group shot Ahlam under the
    most difficult of circumstances

    Another actor, Ghassan Ali, says he escaped death three times on his way to rehearsals.

    Each one of the actors and actresses have similar stories to tell but, as Ghassan puts it, they never miss a practice session because "it's an escape from the bitter reality we are living in".
    Finances are lacking, so Nazar Hussain, the director, sold his car. Sipping tea, he says slowly: "I believe that my art is holy, just like my prayers. There is a 90 per cent possibility of me being killed once I leave my house.
    "Whether I die or not does not really concern me, because I am going out to do something sacred. What concerns me is that we continue doing this job. As long as I am pursing a sacred goal, death is not a concern."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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