Reel Iraq festival explores contribution of culture and creativity to Iraqi life

Talks, film and music in programme including Hassan Blasim, Leila Albayaty and Lord Erregal

Reel Iraq festival explores contribution of culture and creativity to Iraqi life

It’s ten years this month since American missiles first found their range on Baghdad amid the shock and awe campaign that kicked off the second Iraq war, and as a culture we – Iraqis and Westerners – are still trying to reconcile, piece together what happened and decide where we go from here. This month’s Reel Iraq festival might point us in the right direction, but it isn’t here to rake over and disturb the troubled ground.

The Reel festival looks behind the headlines to show the human artists in areas of conflict, and to really celebrate the diversity and resilience of people,’ says Lauren Pyott, co-ordinator of Reel Iraq in Scotland. Occurring in nine locations around the UK this month – four in Scotland – the Reel festival’s five-year existence has seen it previously bring the art of countries like Syria and Afghanistan to these shores, and here it will offer its biggest programme of music, film and poetry yet.

Among the Iraq-based highlights will be the UK debut of oud-playing folk singer Hasan Bressm, the Arabic goth-punk of Lord Erregal and Iraqi-French singer Leila Albayaty appearing with improvised jazz trio City of Salt. There will be film screenings and appearances from PEN award-winning filmmaker and writer Hassan Blasim reading from his short story book The Iraqi Christ, and a poet exchange between Iraq and Scotland organised by The Golden Hour. It is, says Pyott, a celebration rather than a commiseration, albeit one shaped by the reality of contemporary Iraq. ‘We feel that art is a wonderful way of engaging audiences and communities,’ she says, ‘to show that some of our passions and concerns in life are, if not common, then certainly translatable.’

Various venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Dumfries, until Mon 25 Mar

The Golden Hour: Reel Iraq

A special edition of this offbeat cabaret night, acting as a closing party for Reel Iraq 2013, features prominent Iraqi authors and poets including Ghareeb Iskander, Sabreen Kadhim, Zahir Mousa, Awezan Nouri along with short films and music from Billy Liar and Hailey Davies.

Son of Babylon

  • 4 stars
  • 2009
  • Iraq/UK/France/Netherlands/UAE/Egypt/Palestine
  • 100 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mohamed Al-Daradji
  • Written by: Mohamed Al-Daradji, Mithal Ghazi, Jennifer Norridge
  • Cast: Shazada Hussein, Yasser Talib

Melancholy drama set in post-Saddam Iraq, as a little boy and his grandmother set out in search of the boy's father, who has been missing since the Gulf War.

Kick Off

  • 2009
  • Iraq/Iran/Japan
  • 81 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Shawkat Amin Korki
  • Cast: Atug Asu, Hamed Diyar, Hamajaga Hilin

A familiar scenario – a small-town football team and its ardent supporters – in an unfamiliar setting – refugee community living in a stadium in Kirkuk, Iraq.

The Dreams of Sparrows

  • 2005
  • Iraq/US
  • 74 min
  • Directed by: Haydar Daffar/Hayder Mousa Daffar

This collaboration between American producers and Iraqi filmmakers features films from five Iraqi directors who present their views of life after US occupation and before the reconstruction.

Reel Iraq Reading

A night of Iraqi poetry in Arabic and with new translations from John Glenday, Jen Hadfield and Krystelle Bamford.

Reel Iraq 2013

A festival of contemporary Iraqi culture in the 10th year of the country's invasion, exploring art and creativity in a time of conflict. The programme includes more than 40 music, film, poetry, art and panel events across nine UK cities, including Glasgow, Stirling, Dumfries and Edinburgh, which is acting as a festival…

Pen and Reel

Iraqi cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir's line drawings span illustrations for children's books and political cartoons. Several of his works are on display, accompanied by film stills from Son of Babylon, a film that showcases the landscapes of northern Iraq.

Broken Record

  • 2013
  • Iraq
  • 75 min
  • Directed by: Parine Jaddo

A snapshot of filmmaker Jaddo's personal journey to find a Iraqi/Turkman song that her mother used to sing. The melody is in her head, but she can no longer remember the lyrics, and so begins her ride through Iraq's musical heritage, much of it destroyed in conflict.

Reel Words: Found in Translation

Poems from and for Iraq by Ghareeb Iskander, Sabreen Kadhim, Zahir Mousa and Awezan Nouri. A number of Scottish poets, including Chris Salt, Elspeth Brown, Colin Herd, Anna Crowe, Ellen McAtee and Angus Macmillan (among several others), perform the translations, followed by a chance to discuss and ask questions.

Hasan Bressm and Lord Erragal

The music of traditional oud and lute player Hasan Bressm is counterbalanced by the contemporary sounds of emo goth punk Lord Erragal from Baghdad.

Oud Workshop

Three professional oud players – Omar Dewachi, Sam Shalabi and Paed Conca – lead this masterclass in improvised music and Arabic scales. Players of all levels are welcome as are any acoustic instruments, although those that can produce microtones are preferred.

City of Salt and Leila Albayaty

City of Salt blend jazz and noise music with Middle Eastern traditions creating unusual compositions that shirk conformity. The multi-talented Leila Albayaty (musician, composer, director) performs from her latest album, Berlin Telegram, which also provides the soundtrack for her first feature film of the same name.

Iraq through a Lens: Short Film Screenings

An evening of short films on and about Iraq, followed by a Q&A with award-winning filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi. The six-film roster includes Na’eem The Barber about a man who is an academic by day, a barber in a dangerous Baghdad neighbourhood by night; Sing Your Song, following a folk singer from southern Iraq who…

The Invasion of Iraq: A Panel Discussion on Art and Politics

A panel of artists, academics and activists discuss political developments that led up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the ensuing war's impact on art and politics. Chaired by University of Edinburgh lecturer Nacim Pak-Shiraz Shiraz, the evening's speakers include filmmaker and activist Maysoon Pachachi, writer…

Hassan Blasim: The Iraqi Christ

The Baghdad-born filmmaker and writer reads from his upcoming short story collection, Iraqi Jesus, which looks at the plight of the two million refugees created by the Iraq invasion.

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