Films for Iraq


Mohamed Al-Daradji
Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Flickr

Liz Waid and Colin Lowther look at a filmmaker telling stories about his own country – Iraq.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight, I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In March 2011 over a thousand people gathered in the middle of Baghdad, Iraq. In Tahrir Square, a film is showing on a large flat screen. The screen is very large so everyone can watch the film outside together. Some of the viewers have never seen a film on a large screen before. This makes watching a film in Tahrir Square very special.

Voice 2 

But it has even more meaning because of the subject of the film. It is a story set in Iraq. It was also filmed in Iraq. And now Iraqi people are watching it. Many of them cry as they watch the film. Mohamed Al-Daradji wrote and directed this film. He and his team have risked insecurity to make this film. Today’s Spotlight is on Mohamed Al-Daradji’s films and his mobile cinema project in Iraq.

Voice 1 

Iraq has struggled through more than ten years of invasion and on-going civil war. This conflict has influenced culture and the arts. For example, Iraq used to have many cinemas - places where people watch films on a big screen. Mohamed Al-Daradji grew up in Baghdad. He says that the war changed this. He told the website “Power of Culture”:

Voice 3 

“Young people have often never seen a film on a large screen. Of the 275 cinemas that once existed in Iraq, only four are left. Our film industry used to be very productive. But it was destroyed. Even the students of film schools have never been to the cinema."

Voice 2 

This is often the case during a crisis. Culture and the arts do not receive much attention. But Al-Daradji explains that it had a deep effect on the people of Iraq. He told the BBC:

Voice 3 

“Security and safety in Iraq does not come only with the army and police. It comes also with education and culture. Art plays a big part in that kind of thing. And cinema does as well. Cinema has been proven in Europe and worldwide to help to rebuild any nation that lost a war.”

Voice 1 

Mohamed Al-Daradji has experienced the negative effects of insecurity himself. When he was 17, he had to leave Iraq. He went to the Netherlands and became involved in making films. Al-Daradji later studied in Leeds, England. He earned university degrees in directing and cinematography - the skills of making a film. But Al-Daradji had a goal. He wanted to tell the stories of his home country.

Voice 2

In 2004 Al-Daraji made a film called Ahlaam. At that time Iraq was a war zone. Al-Daradji and his team faced many difficulties to make the film in Iraq. They were even kidnapped. But Al-Daradji thought it was important to show the real Iraq in his film. He explained to Power of Culture that this was important for the people of Iraq:

Voice 3 

"They are surrounded by violence and the war, but they have no way to think about it because there is no distance. All of the films we play are about Iraq. They were made in the country itself. People can look at their country and the conflicts from the dark and at a distance. Then they can think more clearly about it. They can even arrive at a different, more thoughtful, understanding."

Voice 1 

This experience encouraged Al-Daraji. In 2010 he made another film in Iraq. It was called “Son of Babylon”. It is a story of a boy and his grandmother. They travel across Iraq looking for the boy’s father. This story is very important because it shows many different parts of Iraq. The film also showed real life in Iraq. It was not the same as the pictures and stories in the international news. The film also talks about the important problem of missing people in Iraq. It educates people worldwide about this issue. At the Baghdad TED talks Al- Daradji said:

Voice 3 

“The films that we make are not just for entertainment. They are films with a goal to change the situation in Iraq. The film 'Son of Babylon' talks about a mother who is looking for her missing son who is buried in the mass graves. We managed, with the help of this film, to collect more than 50,000 signatures from all around the world. These signatures were demanding the United Nations, the Arab League, and the European Union to support and document the mass graves and the people who are missing in Iraq.”

Voice 2 

Many people outside of Iraq watched “Son of Babylon.” But Al-Daradji’s main reason for making this film was for the people inside Iraq. At the TED talk, Al-Daradji continued:

Voice 3 

“We are a nation that must try to work out its problems. We started to do so by making these films. But we faced a problem which was that there are no film theaters. So we came up with a new idea, which is the mobile cinema, where we would take a number of films and go around the towns.”

Voice 1 

In 2011 Al-Daradji showed his film “Son of Babylon” in many cities around Iraq. In most cases, such as at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, people had an emotional response. Al-Daradji told the BBC:

Voice 3 

“The people’s reaction was amazing. They were amazed about the film. People cried. They cried a lot while they watched the film. They did not understand how as Iraqis they could see themselves on that kind of picture. They just live their stories and it is not normal for them to see it on the big screen.”

Voice 2  

The mobile, or moving cinema travelled from city to city. Al-Daradji and his team set up the large screen and showed films on it. The result was that many Iraqis felt more powerful in their own lives. Many people felt more connected to their culture. Many young people are also now more interested in making films of their own.

Voice 1 

Mohamed Al-Daradji continues to make films and teach young Iraqis to make films. He does this work because he believes it is important for making lasting peace in his country. As Al-Daradji says:

Voice 3 

"I am sure that the cinema can have a huge effect. It teaches you to view the world through different eyes. I came to understand other cultures through their films. All major conflicts begin with a lack of understanding. Films can create understanding and hopefully help to end violence."

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Films for Iraq”

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What are your favorite films about your country? What do they tell people about your country?

Comments


Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on November 18, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programma
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Friday 18, November 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, and Colin Lowther:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing for us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!
My favorite film about my country is Os dois filhos de Francisco (The two sons of the Francisco)
This film tell us about that is no matter if you are a poor people to dream about something in which you want to get. However, you have to fight to get it
So, this film tell us about a real story about one brazilian citizen and his sons who is called Francisco and his two sons.  They were very poor and simply family. But, Francisco had a goal to get to his sons in which to become his sons in singers.
So, the two Francisco ‘s sons had showed at different places to sing and to show people that they were talented singers.
Also, they got to sing at different televisions in Brazil.
Therefore, today the Francisco’s family is rich and their sons are great singers of the Brazil.

The best regards.
Severino Ramos
Brazil

Avatar Spotlight
vu huynh
said on November 26, 2016

Tks spotlight !
it’s so great lesson about the films for Irag. This lesson help me more understand about the Mohamed Al-Daradji and Irag country.
My country has many films, but my favourite film is documentary about the country. In this film help me know more a bout my country in 2 war to resist Usa and France.
I want to tell people all over the world : Vietnam is really love peace and already do anything to protect peace.
Tks !