Hopefully prophetically, dancing pipped war and violence for top honours in the four-day Baghdad international film festival which ended on Saturday (dec 29).
French short film “La Danse, l’art de la recontre” (Dance and the art of encounters), a poetic exploration of the world of dance in Asia and Africa, was awarded first prize at the festival, Iraq’s first major cinematic event in two years.
Domenica Hervieu’s 56-minute documentary, co-produced by Senso films, CCN and ARTE France, explores the history and geography of traditional dance forms in Cambodia, Mali and Tunisia.
President of the jury, Akil Mahdi, announced during a low-key ceremony at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel at the climax of the festival, that another docu, “Abu Ghraib and Kilo 160”, had been awarded second prize.
The film, by Iraqi helmer M Nafs, relates the tragic story of Iraq’s 14-member Taekwondo team who were kidnapped and killed in 2006 in Anbar province while returning from a competition in neighbouring Jordan.
The bodies of 13 team members were discovered earlier this year.
Third prize was awarded to “A Palm’s Whisper”, a docu by Egyptian director Shireen Ghieth, which also received a special mention at this year’s Jordan Short Film Festival.
Nafs was the only winner to attend the awards ceremony, which was held under tight security at the downtown hotel. A total of 63 short movies from around the world, with peace as the theme, were screened at the festival, which drew limited audiences in a war-ravaged society where leisure pursuits have come to an almost standstill.
Iraq’s film industry dates back to the 1940s and was at its most popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when going to the cinema became a weekly family outing. However the 1991 Gulf War and the economic sanctions that followed saw cinemas go into decline.
The turmoil sparked by the 2003 invasion saw many ocinemas attacked and burned, with very few movie houses still opening their doors today.
The 2007 film fest drew far smaller audiences than when a similar event was held before large crowds in 2005