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IRAQI LEGACY: DIFF FILMMAKERS REBUILD IRAQ’S NATIONAL CINEMA

Fri Dec 06,2013

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has added a distinctive programming segment this year called ‘Iraqi Legacy: Children of the Future’ to shine the spotlight on films from the country’s burgeoning generation of new filmmakers.

Iraqi cinema is enjoying a renaissance thanks to young filmmakers who defy the usual beginners’ odds—lack of funding, having to prove oneself to investors—in addition to a lack of infrastructure, no government support, and over a decade of deadly violence and upheaval in their home country.

Many are affiliated with the Iraqi Independent Cinema Center, established after the American invasion by two Iraqi filmmakers, Mohamed Al Darraji and Ouday Rasheed. The Center has produced several feature films that have gained international attention, and has trained young short filmmakers who provide a bedrock for a nascent industry.

DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said: “The Iraqi Legacy programme honours the spirit of these artists, who have persevered despite odds that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. These filmmakers represent the seeds of the new Iraqi cinema, and are providing a legacy for future generations who will be able to build on the fertile ground they are creating.”

He continued: “Many of the filmmakers in the programme have exhibited work at previous editions of DIFF or at the Gulf Film Festival, which has featured Iraqi films since its inception. The fact that Iraqi filmmakers were still producing work during the first years of this decade is truly remarkable. With that kind of determination, we are sure to see Iraqi films increasingly on the world stage in coming years.”

Many of the films feature children dealing with the repercussions of adult actions in their own unique way. Meedo Ali’s Children of War, the first short film produced by the Iraqi Independent Film Center and a contender for the Muhr Arab Short Film award, offers a child’s perspective on war through the eyes of a an Iraqi orphan who reveals his experiences through a series of drawings.

In Happy Birthday, by Mohanad Hayal, a young boy is taken to visit his father’s grave on his fifth birthday. Distracted by his toy car, the little boy wanders off and gets lost in the cemetery, where he meets an unusual new friend who will help him back to his mother.

War Canister, by Yahya Al-Allaq, follows a young deaf boy from Baghdad who is forced to steal oil canisters to support his family. On an eventful bus ride home, he forgets his responsibilities for some frivolous, childish fun. A desperate search ensues to find the oil he’s lost.

Najwan Ali, the only female filmmaker in the programme, brings Nesma’s Birds. Nesma, an awkward 11-year-old who has been at odds with the world since her mother forced her to get rid of her late father’s pigeons, faces an even bigger challenge as she enters womanhood.

The films take on the more lighthearted aspects of childhood and adolescence as well: Lipstick, by Luay Fadhil, tackles the aches and pains of puberty, which run rife in a Baghdad boy’s high-school, where teenage boys fantasize over a sultry teacher. Meanwhile, naive Ali dreams only of owning a pair of Nike trainers.

Also a Muhr Arab Shorts contender, Children of God, by Ahmed Yassin, is the heartwarming story of a young boy who attempts to win the heart of the girls’ football team goalkeeper by betting his prized football posters on the girl’s team winning a battle-of-the-sexes football match.

Schedules and additional information for the Iraqi Legacy: Children of the Future programme, as well as all other films and programmes at the tenth edition of DIFF, can be found on the festival website at www.dubaifilmfest.com.

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