Georgetown Graduate at QF, Co-Founds First Iraqi Film Festival and Gives Voice To Iraqi Stories
Israa Al-Kamali, a graduate of QF partner, Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), recently co-founded Iraq's first independent film festival, to shine light on Iraqi stories and experiences. The first Independent Iraqi Film Festival (IIFF) was held over eight days in Summer 2020, virtually showcasing 13 Iraqi short and feature length films from emerging and established Iraqi filmmakers to a global audience.
The film festival featured free viewings of the participating films via their official website, and culminated with the live showing of Dir Samir’s film “Baghdad in my Shadow,” which premiered at London’s Curzon cinema, followed by a discussion with the director and cast.
According to long-time film enthusiast Israa, who graduated from GU-Q in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, majoring in Culture and Politics, the film festival was driven by a love of cinema, but also to establish “a creative independent space for Iraqi filmmakers, and to document our stories and experiences which are often under threat of loss and destruction.”
“People often undermine the political and social power of the arts,” she added, noting how a GU-Q degree “helped me become more vocal with my work that is charged with social and political themes as well as to understand the different historical, political, and social layers and dimensions a piece of creative work can have.” She hopes to continue pursuing her own interest in film, and has recently been accepted into the New York Film Academy for the MFA in filmmaking program.
When the four Iraqi co-founders of IIFF came together to begin planning the event earlier in the year, the physical restrictions of the pandemic were already in effect, which Israa described as a blessing in disguise for the festival. “It made us agile, something which big film festivals around the world were struggling with, and it allowed us to offer our films online for free for everyone to enjoy with no geoblocking.”
Special programs during the festival explored life within Iraq from the vantage points of its diverse communities and highlighted the outspoken voices of young Iraqi women, exemplifying the strength of Iraq’s marginalised voices.She also said that the festival’s uniqueness lies in the fact that submissions were filmed in different regions of Iraq as well as in the diaspora, with films set in northern Iraq, the Iraqi marshes in the south, and Europe, to tell the complex stories of Iraq’s rich culture.
Hundreds of online viewers tuned in for each film, and Israa said plans are in the works for an even bigger festival next year. “Iraqi films are not given the spotlight they deserve and it is not because there aren’t any films by Iraqis. The 80+ submissions we received during our open call is an indicator that there is a lot of talent and passion out there.”
Georgetown University in Qatar
Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is an additional location of Georgetown University, based in Education City in Doha. The University offers a four year undergraduate program in international affairs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degree. Students have the opportunity to select one of four majors, a minor, and one of three certificates.