The first films by students at the college were completed in December 2005. They are the result of a documentary film course.
We have been working in a dangerous and uncertain situation. Over a period of two months, two of our students had relatives kidnapped, one had a cousin badly injured by a bomb and one had an uncle killed in an explosion. The disruptions and violence in Baghdad often meant students had difficulty getting into the college or were unable to shoot. Several times, they had to re-think their projects and start again. Their commitment, however, never wavered and they tried to do their work in any way that they could.
The films were shot between the end of 2004 and October 2005. Each opens a window onto the life of ordinary Iraqis in this extraordinary time. Elections were held in January 2005 and there was a referendum on the constitution in October; the films reflect the confusion of distrust and hope that many Iraqis felt at the time.
Even as “beginners’” films, these short documentaries reveal, in some instances dramatically, the problems Iraqis face everyday and the way in which they find the resilience to survive.
Student films produced in 2010
NA’EEM THE BARBER (12 minutes 17 secs) (2010, directed by Mohammed Na’eem)
Na’eem is an unusual man. In the morning he is an academic – a PhD who lectures at university in Baghdad and in the afternoon, he is a well-loved barber in his neighbourhood. He has trained many young men; like Hamza, his assistant in the barbershop, in Aadhamiya, until very recently one of the most dangerous areas in Baghdad. This film tells the story of Na’eem, a deeply humane and good-natured man, and his struggle to return life to his shattered neighbourhood.
A PHOTOGRAPHER’S MEMORIES (11 minutes 32 secs) (2010, directed by Tha’ir Khalid)
Mohammed Aziz started as a photographer in the 1960’s, documenting the ordinary lives of Iraqis. At the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) he worked as a war photographer on the frontline in Basra, where one night he was caught and wounded in heavy Iranian bombing. Although, he still suffers from the injury, this did not stop him working and exhibiting. He still has his studio in Baghdad and photography is his life.
The following 4 films were shot between the end of 2004 and October 2005. Each opens a window onto the life of ordinary Iraqis in this extraordinary time. Elections were held in January 2005 and there was a referendum on the constitution in October; the films reflect the confusion of distrust and hope that many Iraqis felt at the time.
Baghdad Days (35 mins) (directed by Hiba Bassem, 2005)
Hiba Bassem, a young woman from Kirkuk, returns to Baghdad after the war, to finish her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. The film is a diary of her year as she tries to find a place to live, looks for work, graduates from college, deals with family problems and struggles to come to terms with her position as a woman on her own. This film won a New Horizon silver award at the Al Jazeera International Film Festival in Doha (2006) and a golden award at the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival (2006).
Hiwar (12 mins) (directed by Kifaya Saleh, 2005)
For years a group of Iraqi artists and writers had wanted to establish a cultural centre in Baghdad. After 8 years of devastating war with Iran, the Gulf War of 1991 and the ongoing sanctions, it was clear that there was no point in waiting for peace. So the Hiwar centre was opened in an old house in 1992 and is now being re-built.
Omar Is My Friend (15 mins) (directed by Mounaf Shaker, 2005)
A student at Baghdad University works as a taxi driver to support his wife and 4 daughters. As he negotiates his clapped out taxi around checkpoints, tanks and traffic jams, he talks about work, lack of petrol, electricity, having daughters in a male-dominated society, his personal aspirations and those of his society.
Let the Show Begin (15 mins) (directed by Dhafir Taleb, 2005)
This film documents a 5 day international short film festival held in Baghdad in extremely difficult circumstances in September 2005. The young organisers of the event are determined to do something constructive and to assert a sense of creativity in a situation where daily violence traumatises and paralyses people.
The following 5 films were produced between 2006/2007 and are the product of the second documentary course given at the school.
Leaving (25 mins) (directed by Bahram Al Zuhairi, 2007)
Threatened with kidnap and facing escalating and horrific violence in their neighbourhood, a Mandaean family from Baghdad reaches the difficult decision to leave their home of more than 30 years and go to live in Damascus. The film documents the painful process of selling all their goods and dividing up their house so it can be rented out and finally it records their dangerous road trip to the Syrian border and their arrival to their new, temporary home.
Dr Nabil (15 mins) (directed by Ahmed Jabbar, 2007)
A gentle and committed surgeon, with literary talents, works at a small understaffed Baghdad hospital, which suffers from lack of equipment and medicines. While many other doctors have been killed or have fled the country in fear of their lives, Dr Nabil has decided to stay. He worries, though, about the effect that the atmosphere of violence and brutality is having on his young son.
A Stranger In His Own Country (10 mins) (directed by Hassanain al Hani, 2007)
Thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by sectarian violence and have had to seek refuge in other parts of the country. This is a portrait of Abu Ali, a refugee from Kirkuk living in a displaced person’s camp on the outskirts of Kerbala. He is a peace-loving man with a keen sense of justice, trying to find a way to survive and provide for his family in the difficult circumstances in which they now find themselves.
A Candle For The Shabandar Cafe (25 mins) (directed by Emad Ali, 2007)
Founded in 1917, the Shabandar Cafe in Al Mutanabbi Street in the heart of the old centre of Baghdad, was a cultural landmark, where generations of Iraqis came to discuss and debate literature and politics - a living repository of Iraqi intellectual history and one of the last places where people could gather to exchange ideas. Emad had shot most of his film by the end of 2006, but in March 2007, a massive car bomb destroyed the Shabandar Cafe, all the bookshops on Al Mutanabbi Street and killed and wounded scores of people. Days later, Baghdad’s poets and artists held a wake in the ruins of the street they loved so much and Emad took a small camera and went back to film. As he was leaving he was attacked, his camera stolen and he was shot in the legs and chest, and his own story is an epilogue to his film about the Shabandar Cafe and Mutanabbi Street - before and after they were destroyed.
Documentary Course March 2006 (15 mins) (directed by Ahmed Kamal, 2007)
Ahmed Kamal documents the lives of his fellow students at the Independent Film & Television College in Baghdad as they try to get into classes, find the subjects for the films they want to make and deal with the difficulties of trying to film in Iraq at the moment. In the end the college has to close down when 2 people are abducted from the building and an explosion in the street below shatters all its windows.
The following 2 films were commissioned by Al Jazeera International
Staying (16 mins) (directed by Mounaf Shaker, 2007)
Mounaf lives in the Dora district of Baghdad, once a lively mixed area full of palm groves. Now US tanks constantly roam the streets, sectarian militias exchange fire and people find death threats on the doorstep when they wake up in the morning. The director describes his life as he struggles to get into work at Mustansiriya University, worries about his father, an out-of-work archaeologist who now has a shop in the house, courts his fiancée and gets married. The pressure on him is intense, but for the moment he is staying.
Thinking About Leaving (10 mins) (directed by Hiba Bassem, 2007)
Hiba lives with her sisters, mother and brother in an area dominated by an armed militia. She is followed back from work and the taxi driver is afraid she will be kidnapped. There is no electricity, no security, danger everywhere. Hiba ruminates about what the past 3 years have brought Iraqis.