After years of war and strife, the cinema of Iraq is aiming to make a comeback with the first locally produced film in 25 years. The Journey, which tells the story of an Iraqi woman struggling under conflict and sectarian violence, was recently released in Iraq, after having its international debut at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.
Iraqi cinema was once regarded as one of the best in the region but following the U.S. invasion in 2003, the industry has greatly suffered. “Everyone dreams of watching an Iraqi-produced film because for a long time Iraqi cinema had no productions at all,” says local film critic Safirah Naji. “We don’t have film festivals, and we don’t have theatres that show Iraqi films.”
Mohammed al-Daraji directed and produced The Journey, and says that his film gives a moral perspective on the war which has killed nearly a million people, and created a refugee and orphan crisis. “We have the boycott, the sanctions and then after that the war, the occupation, sectarian violence and then we ended with Daesh (ISIS)… But, we managed now as Iraqis to get back again. That is what we learn as Iraqis and we are coming to the point where we are going to challenge our limit and go further and further.”