Lights, Camera, Iraq!
Filming on Baghdad’s streets unwittingly produces some form of cinema verite, and directors such as Kamel are confronting the challenges as they try to revive Iraq’s battered entertainment industry.
After decades of government censorship and a two-year U.S. occupation, actors, filmmakers and television producers are embracing new artistic freedoms to tell stories about Iraqis Ã¢€” before and after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow Ã¢€” for an increasingly housebound audience.
A dozen new private TV channels are pumping out soap operas, sitcoms, reality shows and dramas, with a distinctly Iraqi flavor. For the first time, Iraqi television is tackling issues of social injustice, government corruption and, on occasion, life under Hussein.
The nation’s first postwar feature-length film is “Underexposure,” which focuses on a lost generation of young artists coping with the U.S. occupation. It is now debuting at international film festivals.
“Departure,” a groundbreaking television serial, which debuted in April, chronicles a gangster family that thrives after the fall of Baghdad by peddling stolen antiquities. Think “Sopranos” with an Iraqi twist. A character on the show lands in jail days before the U.S. invasion after getting drunk and insulting Hussein. It marks the first time that an Iraqi entertainment program has negatively depicted life under the dictator.