Beneath the strife that makes headlines in Iraq is a rich culture of cinema that is brought to the forefront at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) 2009.
The line-up of Iraqi films at the festival include those from renowned auteurs including Rashid Masharawi, Shawkat Amin Korki and Hiner Saleem, as well as upcoming filmmakers Haider Rashid and Hadi Mahood.
The films My Father, My Uncle and Collapse have opened to critical acclaim at DIFF, and have set the tone for the thematic and narrative brilliance characterizing the Iraqi films at the festival.
Kick Off (pictured above) is about a friendly football match between Arab and Kurdish boys in an Iraqi refugee camp that turns sour. The film is by award-winning director Shawkat Amin Korki and will be screened on Dec. 15 (8 pm, Cinestar 9). This is the film's only second screening following its highly successful debut at Pusan Film Festival.
In the powerful documentary, Al Ajniha Assaghira (Little Wings) director Rashid Masharawi visits Baghdad to meet the young children forced to work around the city drawing parallels between them and youngsters in Gaza. The film will be screened on Dec. 12 (6 pm, Cinestar 6) and Dec. 14 (2 pm, Cinestar 11).
Mein Vater Mein Onkel (My Father. My Uncle), directed by Christoph Heller, made its Middle East premiere, and will be screened again on Dec. 14 (3.15 pm at Cinestar 6, Mall of the Emirates). The film has a UAE link, depicting an Iraqi-German who travels here to meet his long-lost Iraqi father's family. The documentary reflects on family ties, cultural differences and the bond between parents and their children.
Director Hadi Mahood's Collapse documents the collapse of Iraqi culture after the fall of the regime in 2003 and the plight of artists and cultural institutions. The film will be screened on Dec. 13 (6.45 at Cinestar 10).
Al Mihna (Tangled Up in Blue) marks its World Premiere at DIFF. The movie, directed by Haider Rashid, is about the son of a world-renowned Iraqi writer who struggles with his conscience and his assassinated father's legacy. The film screens on Dec. 13 (6.45 pm, Cinestar 5) and Dec. 15 (7 pm, Cinestar 12).
Another striking feature is Apres La Chute (After the Downfall), by Hiner Saleem. The film is set in Baghdad during April 2003. Saddam Hussein's regime has been toppled and a group of Iraqi-Kurdish exiles meets in Berlin to celebrate. The film will be screened on Dec. 15 (9.45 pm, Cinestar 12) and Dec. 16 (1.30 pm, Cinestar 5).