Twenty Years After U.S.-Led Invasion of Iraq, Filmmakers Examine Build Up to War, Challenges in Present Day Baghdad
Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. CPH:DOX will reflect on the repercussions of the war, which ousted Saddam Hussein, but never led to the discovery of weapons of mass destruction, by screening two documentaries: Greta Stocklassa’s “Blix Not Bombs” and Karrar Al-Azzawi’s “Baghdad on Fire.”
“(The invasion) was an event that has shaped international politics over the course of the last two decades in unpredictable and often devastating ways,” says CPH:DOX head of program Mads Mikkelsen. “Not least inside Iraq itself. (‘Blix Not Bombs’ and ‘Baghdad on Fire’) provide two different takes – a shot and reverse shot – on the course of events back in 2003 and on the current situation in Iraq as seen from the inside and through the eyes of the young.”
“Blix Not Bombs” follows Hans Blix, the former head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, who was sent to Iraq in 2002 to determine whether U.S. suspicions that the country was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction were founded. Though the final report found no evidence of an Iraqi weapons program under Hussein, the U.S. and a coalition of allies nevertheless decided to invade the country. Now in the final stretch of his life, Blix questions whether he did enough to prevent a war whose impact is felt to this day.
“To me, Hans’s story is not only an intriguing behind-the-scenes of one of the most important events in modern history, but it’s also the story of the limits of diplomacy, moral dilemmas, and personal responsibility in shaping the world,” Stocklassa told Variety while working on the film in 2021.
Meanwhile, “Baghdad on Fire” follows 19-year-old activist leader Tiba and her friends from the pro-democracy movement around Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. In the docu, Tiba and her fellow activists discuss and plan how to bring freedom, democracy and change to Iraq. They are done with militias, corrupt politicians and foreign troops defining the country. Together with friends Khader and Yousif, Tiba starts a medical team that helps young protesters when they have been bathed in tear gas.
“Both Tiba and I wanted to show the world what is really going on in the country,” says Al-Azzawi, who fled Iraq in 2016 after being a vocal advocate for democracy. In October 2019 when protests erupted in Baghdad, the director knew it was time to make a film. So, he found a production manager and two cinematographers.
“My dream main character was a strong Iraqi woman,” Al-Azzawi says. “A brave, Iraqi woman, who is fighting for freedom, justice, and equality and her country.” The helmer’s dream came true when he met Tiba.
“Tiba and I both want to show that Iraqi women are not living the life the (international) media portrays,” says Al-Azzawi. “They are always portrayed as controlled by society or their husbands. This is always the narrative. I think that Tiba, who left a marriage she was forced into at age 14, is an example of an Iraqi woman who is not a victim. This was important to show because Iraqi women are not victims. They are resilient and can lead and be in control.”
Both docus will be making their world premieres at CPH:DOX on Monday. “Blix Not Bombs” will be followed by a live video discussion with Blix and Stocklassa. Following “Baghdad on Fire,” Al-Azzawi, will take part in a live discussion with Aida Al-Kaisy, co-founder of Iraqi media outfit Jummar, and journalist Waleed Safi. Both Q&As will be moderated by Politiken international editor Michael Jarlner.
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