As you might imagine, the entertainment scene in Baghdad is not exactly thriving. Most movie theaters have shut down, and there aren't a lot of local rock bands to play in the clubs. Even if there were, who wants to go out for a night on the town when there's a good chance you might get, you know, blown up?

But as it happens, Iraq used to have a thriving movie industry, and even after the U.S. invasion and fall of Saddam in 2003, some filmmakers tried to keep it alive. In 2005, the first Baghdad International Film Festival was held, showcasing several dozen locally made shorts over six days. Increasing violence in the city made it unfeasible after that, but now a group called the Association of Iraqi Filmmakers Without Borders is reviving the event.

And so we have the second Baghdad International Film Festival, scheduled for Dec. 16-19. Variety reports that Iraqi director Abdul Basit Salman is heading up the fest, and that most of the films will be shorts submitted by Egypt, Jordan, and Iran. (I'm going to go out on a limb and guess there won't be much of an Israeli presence.) The official lineup hasn't been determined yet.

Salman and his colleagues hope the fest will be a step toward normalcy in the war-torn city. It may be an uphill battle. They don't have a venue yet because the place they used last time, the Al-Mansour Hotel, was the site of a suicide bombing that killed 12 people earlier this year. And even with violence levels decreasing (according to the Iraqi prime minister), many locals still aren't exactly skipping down the streets and tipping their hats to passersby.

The film festival is a promising sign, though. In the United States, the highest movie attendance on record was in the years immediately after World War II, when people were finally able to breathe freely and relax. If Iraqis turn out for the Baghdad fest, it might indicate that hope and optimism are on the rise.
categories Movies, Cinematical