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Iraq Makes Dubai Film Festival Debut with First Post-Saddam Feature Filmed in Baghdad

Tue Nov 22,2005

Dubai, November 22, 2005 – Underexposure, the sole Iraqi entry submitted to this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, will make its UAE premiere next month to an audience eager to see interesting films from the region. . Part of the Festival’s new Dubai Discoveries program, Underexposure is the first feature length film to be shot on location in Baghdad after the war and ouster of Saddam Hussein. Creatively blending reality with fiction, Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has produced a film that chronicles the dizzying atmosphere of life during the war and brings to the forefront a part of the world long left in the dark. The title not only refers to the outdated film stock that was used to make the film, but also to the generation of Iraqis that have been isolated from the world for decades. Underexposure follows the story of a young Iraqi filmmaker emotionally, spiritually and mentally attached to Baghdad, who tries to redefine his life in a city materially, humanly and ideologically distorted. In the wake of the US-led attack, he decides to make a documentary about Baghdad, and recruits his own family and friends to star in the film. The project runs into difficulties, however, as the young filmmaker grows increasingly affected by the instability and chaos plaguing the city around him. This lyrical and textured piece of work tracks friends, lovers, strangers and family members woven together by the complexities of their new reality. Festival Director and CEO Neil Stephenson said the Iraqi film fit perfectly into the new category created to showcase the work of undiscovered and promising new Arab talents from around the world. “Underexposure is a prime example of a film from a rising new Arab director,” Stephenson said. “The film has created a lot of interest on the festival circuit this year and Dubai audiences will also be fascinated by it as it offers a window on life in post-war Iraq. Oday Rasheed and Furat Al Jameel, director and producer of the film, said the film was intended to show the inability of the average Iraqi to change or exercise control over his or her own fate and the fate of the country in the face of constant repression. “My aim is to encourage all young Iraqi filmmakers in these difficult times to continue expressing themselves and say their word to the world hoping for peace and freedom for everyone,” Rasheed said. The making of the film was a challenge in itself, Rasheed added. The old 35mm camera used to record the film had not been used since 1984, the film stock had been expired for decades, looted and sold on the black market before it was collected, shooting outdoors bordered on the dangerous, and the lack of resources meant the crew had little choice but to work for free on the project, all the while unsure if the ageing film stock would result in a useable picture. After its world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival earlier this year, Underexposure won the Best Film award at the Singapore International Film Festival, and the Golden Hawk Award at the Arab Film Festival in the Netherlands. While the film has not yet been shown in Iraq, many of the Iraqi nationals who have seen Underexposure at international film festivals have been moved to tears. The film is one of several films included in the Dubai Discoveries program. The unveiling of the entire Festival program and list of celebrity attendees is expected on November 27, alongside the opening of the Festival box office. The second Dubai International Film Festival will be held between December 11 and 17, 2005, and will feature approximately 100 films including features, retrospectives and short films. DIFF 2005 is divided into 12 distinct programs - including five brand new sections - each focusing on a particular category of film.

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