British Film Festival in Kurdistan

By Chris Bowers, British Consul General in Erbil. This article was originally published by Rudaw, and is re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.

A great British poet, Samuel Coleridge, wrote in 1817 that art in its best form required a “willing suspension of disbelief”. What he meant by that is that most literature or plays are implausible if you look into the details. Stories are a version of reality not reality. The audience has to accept that. The role of the story-teller or artist is to bring the audience along with them despite that. It is an essential element to any form of story-telling. The world is not black and white but that doesn’t get in the way of audiences appreciating great black and white films or the film-maker creating his vision in that medium.

I was reminded of Coleridge’s words as the audience filed into Erbil’s Saad Palace for the British Film Festival over the last few days. The film-goers were suspending disbelief for the films but also for some suspending disbelief that they were there to watch a major film festival happening in the Kurdistan Region.

But when you think about it, a film festival here shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Erbil is a City of Possibilities, in a Region of potential. That is part of what makes this such an exciting time to be in the Kurdistan Region.

Being creative in any venture or activity requires imagination; imagination to see the world, a business, any situation differently. In one of the films we showed, a young boy, Billy Elliot, was growing up motherless in a mining village during a bitter strike – tough times, indeed. His father wanted him to learn how to box. But Billy Elliot had a passion for something very different: ballet, something that his father despised. He imagined a different life for himself, worked hard and, remarkably, unbelievably almost, he went to the Royal Ballet School and went on to perform the lead role in ‘Swan Lake’ with his proud father in the audience.

Imagination and the ability to get things done are not only vital in the artistic world. It is true in many aspects of life.

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