Iraq’s Film Industry Hits Bottom

Today, there are no high-quality movie theaters in Baghdad, Basra — the second-largest city in the country — or Mosul, which has become the stronghold of religious and ethnic extremism since 2003. There are no Hollywood shows in the “American Iraq,” except for those provided by Arab and American TV channels that can be watched in the region.

It is true that there has been no decision issued by the Iraqi government to ban American and Western films and programs in general, but the channels controlled by the government do not actually broadcast any Western movies or music. Meanwhile, they are keen — alongside dozens of TV channels controlled by the ruling religious parties and influential through their militias — to broadcast a culture that writes off good music and fine movies as taboo, even in the absence of an official government decision.

Cinema studies in Iraq?

The universities of Baghdad, Babil and Diyala grant degrees in film studies and arts. The cinema and TV arts department at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Baghdad seems to be the oldest in Iraq. It was established as part of the theater arts department during the 1973-1974 academic year. At the beginning of the 1981-1982 academic year, the radio and TV division was created. The latter was part of the theater arts department, as was the case with the cinema division. At the end of the academic year, the cinema division and radio and TV division merged, including later on the audiovisual arts department that includes cinema, TV and radio studies, managed by the late academic and director Jafar Ali.

The audiovisual arts department is designed to “promote the culture of cinema, television and radio, provide cultural and media institutions with scientific cinema, television and radio frameworks, provide scientific and cultural advice to specialized state departments and public and private cultural agencies.” Finally, it aims “to develop scientific and academic staff specialized in cinema, television, and radio drama,” according to the departmental website.

Nevertheless, Bashar Kazem, a young film director and critic, told Al-Monitor: “Many students resort to arts colleges and institutes given their weak academic achievements in high school. Thus, they are there merely to get a degree, not because of talent or proficiency.”

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