JEDDAH: Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival is treating audiences to a diverse array of films from across the Arab world and beyond, and one 27-year-old Iraqi director is the latest to have his work shown to audiences in Saudi Arabia.
Albaqer Jafeer, from Baghdad, is participating in the Arab Spectacular category alongside eight other movies with “Take me to the Cinema,” his first documentary.
In an interview with Arab News, Jafeer spoke about the catastrophic wars that Iraqis have been through and how these affected entertainment for citizens and impacted him personally as a filmmaker.
“This documentary is a combination of drama and fiction. The idea came to me while I was reading a novel by the famous Iraqi novelist Nassif Falak, the hero of my film,” Jafeer said.
For Jafeer, the film had its own set of challenges, taking four years to complete.
“Iraq lacks cinema producers and theaters, and the industry itself is practically non-existent. Creating the film was extremely challenging as I am the director, actor, producer, photographer and more.
“When my film received support from the Red Sea International Film Festival, it was a significant boost in terms of production, especially with the help of talented Egyptian producers,” he continued.
The post-production stage was sponsored by the film festival, which, according to Jafeer, helped speed up the production process.
“Having my film premiere in Saudi Arabia is a golden opportunity. I am so thrilled that Saudi audiences will get to explore more about Iraq. This, for myself and other Iraqis, will create a very significant dialogue,” he said.
Inspired by Falak’s novel, the 75-minute documentary tells the story of a 65-year-old Iraqi soldier who absconded from Iraq’s mandatory military service when he was younger and found a safe haven in a cinema.
The film is viewed from Jafeer’s eyes, as he questions the future of the film industry, that of the Iraqi generation born in the 1990s, and how the cycle of life is repeated, with many of the same issues faced by different generations.
“What happened to the dreams of the previous generation? What happened to their journey? Is it over? Or can they still achieve their goals?” Jafeer asked, relaying some of the main thematic questions dealt with in the poignant cinematic work.
“The film is full of questions. Some might be answered within the context, others might remain unanswered, but I would like to leave them to the previous Iraqi generation to answer,” he added.
“Take me to the Cinema” also highlights how Iraq was home to over 100 movie theaters during the country’s glory days before the wars began.
“There is a street called ‘Cinema Street’ located in the city of Ramadi where all the movie theaters used to be. Sadly, these buildings have now been turned into military uniform shops. This shows how our lives are merged with war,” the director said.
“Take me to the Cinema” will be screened on Dec. 10 and 13 at Al-Balad Vox cinemas.