New Internationalist

Festival showcases Reel Iraq

collection of old photographs
In Broken Record Parine Jaddo travels Iraq in search of a song which her monther sung in 1960 Parine Jaddo

One decade ago, US and British forces led the military invasion into Iraq. Protests against the war took place across the world and the people of Iraq are still living the consequences.

To mark this anniversary, the Reel Iraq festival will take place across nine UK cities from Thursday 21 until Monday 25 March. The events aim to explore the contribution of art, culture and creativity to Iraqi life in a time of conflict and include contemporary live music, film screenings, poetry readings, art exhibitions, panel discussions and music workshops.

Home to the world’s first civilization and steeped in cultural and historical significance, Iraq has a wealth of creativity to explore. Festival organizers say that the decades of turmoil brought on by civil and international wars have only served to strengthen the resilience of Iraqi people and their connection to culture.

This will be the fourth Reel Festival. Designed to break down barriers and increase communication through culture, previous events have focused on Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Highlights of the 2013 festival include the UK preview of Parine Jaddo’s Broken Record. The film was inspired by an Iraqi/Turkman song which Jaddo’s mother used to sing in 1960. After her mother died, Jaddo went in search of the song in Iraq, remembering the melody but not the lyrics. The journey around the country gives an insight into the rich musical heritage of Iraqi Maqam, much of which has been lost. The preview includes a Q&A with the director.

The ‘Photographs By Numbers’ exhibition by Mona Chalabi is at London’s Arab British Centre between 22 and 28 March and explores the theme of ‘development’. Each image has been manipulated to display a statistic which tells part of the story of progress, stagnation and deterioration in Iraq since 2003. The exhibition aims to show that development is extremely complex and that success in one area can coexist with, and sometimes even cause, losses in others.

‘Photographs try to say something about a specific place, at a specific moment in time. Data tries to be an objective indication of the state of a country, of a nation, or even of the future. Together, they show the potential for change – positive or negative,’ says Chalabi.

For fans of the spoken word, a group of touring poets will take part in ‘Found in Translation’ – Poems for and from Iraq. Featured writers include Jen Hadfield (TS Elliot prize winner 2008), John Glenday (Griffen Prize shortlisted) and Ryan Van Winkle. They will join Iraqi poets as part of a translation poetry performance.

Reel Iraq will be held in various venues in London, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle , Bristol, Derry/Londonderry and Stirling. Find out more at the Reel Festivals website. Most events are free entry.

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