Baghdad’s third international film festival, and first in four years, opened on Monday, with the aim of reviving an industry hammered by decades of violence and sanctions.
More than 150 films from 32 countries will be aired in multiple locations across the Iraqi capital from October 3 to 10, festival director Taher Alwan told AFP.
“Although the security situation in the country and all kinds of obstacles are facing us, I believe this edition will be the biggest and the best,” he said.
“I believe this festival will stimulate cultural life in Iraq, and we will try to restore the culture of cinema in Iraq. As you know, after (the U.S.-led invasion of) 2003, everything was closed – the cinemas were closed, there was no cinema activity, so Iraqis felt isolated from the world.”
Alwan added that, by showing their work and meeting fellow filmmakers from other countries, the festival would build confidence among young Iraqi professionals and aspiring moviemakers.
He said he hoped it would mark a “turning point” for Iraq’s film industry.
The last Baghdad International Film Festival was held in 2007, when Iraq was mired in a brutal insurgency and sectarian bloodshed. Alwan said the long delay between the two festivals was due to the difficulty in obtaining financing, but he hoped it would become an annual fixture.
Films will be judged for awards in three categories – best drama, best short film and best documentary, with two other prizes reserved for the best young Iraqi director, and the best female Arab filmmaker.
The festival was to open with a ceremony on Monday, with the first film screened set to be “Le voyage a Alger” by Abdelkarim Bahloul.