Gulf Nights’ underscores need for Iraqi perspective in films
The third edition of the Gulf Film Festival, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), hosted the third Gulf Nights, focusing on Iraqi cinema.
Iraq is one of the dominating subject matter for international cinema, and Gulf filmmakers must leverage on their proximity to the country and their understanding of its ethos to create powerful tales, participants said.
The third ‘Gulf Nights’ was headed by Erfan Rashid, an Iraqi filmmaker currently living in Italy. Participants included Iraqi filmmaker Mohammed Al Daradji, Huda Ibrahim, a Lebanese film professional living in France and Nader Adli from Egypt.
The discussions centred on the current situation where Iraq doesn’t yet have a solid movie industry other than individual-led efforts. Filmmakers lack financial support and participants called for the need to create specific funding and to rebuild the cinema infrastructure. They said that despite the strong presence of Iraqi filmmakers – 24 of them at GFF alone – distribution support for the movies is yet to catch up.
The core of the discussion centred on the two distinct streams of movies from Iraq: one, that is made by Iraqi filmmakers from within the country; two, films made by overseas film professionals, often basing their films on the political volatility of Iraq but shooting them in other countries. The participants also discussed how Western films approach Iraq as a subject matter.
Erfan Rashid said: “Films about Iraq have shaken the consciousness of viewers across the world. However, there is a drastic difference in the way Iraqi filmmakers approach the subject vis-à-vis the perspective of foreign professionals, who tend to impose their stereotypes.”
The discussion attained much relevance given the backdrop of ‘The Hurt Locker,’ a film about an anti-bomb squad in Iraq winning the Oscar for best film recently. Several other films by Hollywood filmmakers have portrayed the contemporary realities in Iraq.
Despite the trials and tribulations on ground, several Iraqi filmmakers have also come forward with powerful tales, narrated with a unique Arab perspective. “The Gulf Film Festival has a large
collection of movies from Iraq, made by filmmakers who are based in the country. It is important that their outlook is also taken to the wider audience,” said Rashid.