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Baghdad film festival focuses on peace

Baghdad film festival focuses on peace

Baghdad's first major cinematic event in two years got under way on Wednesday with the start of the city's four-day international film festival, screening 63 short movies with peace as the theme.
"We hope this festival will help the reconciliation" in Iraq and the "dialogue between the societies and the cultures" of the country, said Ammar al-Arradi, president of the festival's organising committee.
Arradi opened the festival at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel before the screening of "Missing Frequency" by Iraqi filmmaker Saber Shabbi, which highlights the current situation in the war-shattered country.
A total of 63 short movies will be screened until December 29, involving film-makers from Egypt, France, Denmark, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Singapore, the Philippines, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.
The organizers decided not to hold the festival last year because of the precarious security situation in Baghdad.
Entertainment, along with most other leisure pursuits, has come almost to a standstill with the vast majority of cinemas in Baghdad, once crammed with filmgoers, standing empty.
Iraq's film industry dates back to the 1940s and was at its most popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when cinema-going became a weekly family outing.
However the 1991 Gulf war and the economic sanctions that followed it saw cinemas go into decline.
The turmoil sparked by the 2003 invasion saw many of them attacked and burned, with only a few now open for an ever-dwindling audience.
Arradi said the films must help Iraqis "exorcise their demons."
For him the content of the films was more important than the quality.
"That is why we chose the topic of the festival as 'right to a safe and stable life'," he said, adding that "Missing Frequency" was chosen primarily because of this reason even as it suffered from lack of resources.
The film is about two men, one wheelchair-bound and with a radio dangling around his neck tuned to news of violence in Iraq, while the other lies on his bed, his eyes fixed on the ceiling above.
Towards the end the two are seen heading towards a desert with the disabled man saying to his companion that "there is still hope."
In "Tolerance" the audience is transported to Central Park, New York in which two young Americans are heard cursing Islam, with one saying "a good Muslim is one who wears an Orange jumpsuit in Guantanamo."
The two are then seen crossing the road and are passed by two Muslims who thank Allah for bringing them to the United States which they call a "land of freedom."
Its message is likely to be lost as the movie was made in English, but the audience did not seem to be bothered by it.
"I don't understand the film but I know it means well," said one viewer.
Arradi said that of the 63 films, 27 were made by Iraqis, many of them in their twenties.
"I am relieved to see that there is change in this destroyed country where everything is being rebuilt, including cinema," he said.
Ayas Jihad, 25, made a film at a cost of 1,000 dollars which compared Iraq to a toy house being destroyed by a child for no reason and then rebuilt again.
"The difficulty is to find finance," he said. "But I am hopeful that things will improve for cinema and for Iraq. They both depend on each other."


Updated : 2021-05-17 19:14 GMT+08:00