Inside Move: New front in Iraqi filmmaking

Rasheed: 'We are making a film and trying to stay alive'

LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level.

Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of daily explosions, military skirmishes and terrorist strikes.

“After we finished the first shot of the first day of filming, a huge explosion near our location almost blew our set away,” Rasheed says. “We are making a film and trying to stay alive at the same time.”

The film tells the story of a musician battling cancer, a young filmmaker and a dead soldier wandering what he describes as “the puzzled streets of a magical city.”

Pic’s events begin with the U.S.-led invasion in April and take the viewer to the present day.

For the director, the film is very much a love letter to his hometown: “The film is offering a vision and poetic expression to Baghdad and its wounds.”

With the cast and crew all working for free, Rasheed began filming in October.

“The existence of a camera crew in the streets of Baghdad is kind of dangerous,” he admits, but he is confident he will complete his film. He’s even hopeful of showing the feature at next year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Not all of his problems are linked to the continuing military actions within the country. With film stock scarce in Baghdad, there’s no room for method acting or multiple takes. “The amount of negative film we have is relatively small. Our take rate is 1:2; it can’t really be a negative ratio, can it? Maybe 2:1, which pretty much obliges us to make no mistakes!”

He has found a friend in the Kodak Co., which offered to develop negatives for free in Beirut once lensing is finished.

Iraq’s only film company, Babel, has lent its old equipment in return for a cut of the profits of the film.

“That’s if there are any,” the director quips.

For Rasheed, the film is not just a personal artistic expression, but an important symbol of the Iraqi people’s re-emergence following 35 years of life under a brutal regime.

As he sees it, “Cinema is a kind of opposition to the death that became common on the city’s map.”

He is no stranger himself to the tyrannical methods of the old regime.

He shot 4,800 feet of a docu on life in Baghdad at the beginning of the year, only to see it burned by authorities when they learned of the work.

More Film

  • Nabil Ayouch Talks Taboos, Arab Youth,

    Nabil Ayouch: ‘No Subject Should be Taboo in the Arab World’

    LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level. Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of […]

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris: 'People Are Feeling Empowered'

    LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level. Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Oscars: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Takes Aim Below the Line

    LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level. Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of […]

  • Layoffs Hit Bold Films

    Bold Films Laying Off Half of Its Employees (EXCLUSIVE)

    LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level. Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of […]

  • Salma Hayek Hitman's Bodyguard

    Salma Hayek Details Harassment By Harvey Weinstein on 'Frida'

    LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level. Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of […]

  • Peter Debruge Variety Best Films of

    Peter Debruge's 10 Best Films of 2017

    LONDON — Iraqi director Oday Rasheed has taken the term guerrilla filmmaking to a whole new level. Filming “Under Exposure,” the first feature to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Rasheed and his crew are working on no budget and shooting on 20-year-old film stock. And there’s the ongoing impediment of […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content