Huda AL KADHIMI / Margaret GLOVER / Shaker K. TAHRER
Ishtar Iraq Film Production
Ahmed Yassin AL DARADJI
Iraqi writer-director Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji is an alumnus of Berlinale Talents 2018 and London Film School, where he received an MA with distinction for Children of God (2013), a multi-award-winning short set in the same Baghdad community as his debut feature, Hanging Gardens. In 2015, Ahmed began work on a feature documentary, The Servant of Baghdad, which received development support through Greenhouse Film Centre. UK-based Stray (Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji, Jessica Kelly, 2017) premiered in London at the East End Film Festival 2017 and went on to have a successful festival run. Hanging Gardens was selected for Rawi Screenwriters’ Lab and Med Film Factory in 2017, and was short-listed for a development award at El Gouna Film Festival 2018 and at Malmo Arab Film Festival Market Forum 2020.
Since founding Ishtar Iraq Film Production in 2017, Huda Al Kadhimi has emerged as the ‘go-to’ producer for emerging talent, not only in her native Iraq but also in neighboring Jordan, where she has received training and support through the Royal Film Commission Jordan. Her company has facilitated Baghdad shoots for several international co-productions, including Another Day in Baghdad (Maysoon Pachachi, 2020) and award-winning Haifa Street (Mohanad Hayal, 2019). Huda’s premiere as producer was short, Mosul 980 (Ali Mohammed Saeed, 2019), which competed in the Generation 14 Plus of Berlin International Film Festival 2019. Her vibrant slate of fiction and documentary features, shorts and TV series has garnered attention in the Middle East and across Europe, including Berlinale Talents and co-productions with Sweden, Belgium and France. Several projects have received development support through Jordan’s Royal Film Commission and have been selected for pitching platforms in the Middle East and Europe, including MediMed Doc Market, Berlinale Talents, Public Pitch & Speed Meetings, The Royal Film Commission Jordan and Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival, Doha Film Institute, and Malmo Arab Film Festival Forum. Huda recently established a Writing Room that’s delivering series drama content to regional Arab broadcasters. Huda Al Kadhimi is an active Iraqi film producer who started her career in the film industry in 2017. She started her journey in cinema from workshops held by the Royal Film Commission in Jordan, from 2006 to 2013. Later, she founded Ishtar Iraq Film Production in Iraq and Jordan. The company aims to support relevant local talents and reflect the reality of the Arab World in its projects.
Margaret Glover’s career spans theatre, film and television as a dramaturge, script editor, writer and producer. Recent credits include working as story consultant on two artist filmmaker’s feature-length creative documentaries and as executive producer on a range of debut features, which have travelled the international festival circuit, winning awards along the way.
Shaker K. Tahrer is the writer, director and producer of short films My Father Doesn′t Cry (2002) and Soccer Player at Midnight (2005). Tahrer studied film directing at the Film Academy in Goteborg and screenwriting at Film i Vast in Trollhattan. His short film, Soccer Player at Midnight (2005), competed at a number of international festivals and has been broadcast on SVT (Swedish Television) on several occasions. Bloody Boys (2012) was his debut full-length feature.
Six days a week, Taha (27) and As’ad (10) rise with the first call to prayer and head for Hanging Gardens – a multi-colored mash-up of an environmental disaster. While Taha searches for scrap metal to sell by weight, As’ad chases after the US Embassy trucks, with their higher grade of trash. Then one day, As’ad uncovers a one-legged American sex doll, takes her home, washes and clothes her. When As’ad presents the talking doll to his brother as a thing of beauty, Taha assaults his little brother with a violence that shocks them both. As’ad takes his ‘taboo trash back where he found it’ and creates a home for them inside an abandoned armored personnel carrier (APC). It’s not so easy to disappear in a world where individual choices are the whole community’s business. A young entrepreneur immediately spots the doll’s potential and convinces As’ad it’s his duty to offer this virus-free entertainment to local boys. It’s not long before the local patriarch gets wind of this unwelcome addition to his closely patrolled community. Caught between his peers’ exploitation and the patriarch’s fundamentalism, As’ad takes the doll out of circulation and begins to humanize her. He names her Salwah, which translates as both ‘comfort’ and ‘salvation’. As’ad’s refusal to live by other people’s rules further enrages the community. Juma’a gives his blessing for Amir’s boys to torch the APC. As’ad escapes and buries his treasure with the epitaph, ‘Here lies As’ad’s Salwah; abused by many, loved by one.’
The world of my film is the landscape of my youth; I know where beauty lies amid ugliness, where to find peace in the midst of conflict. I also know the temperaments of my characters; what delights as well as what drives them to destruction. On a recent recce, I observed the boys of my old neighborhood and rediscovered it from their perspective. These youths are fearless, yet underneath, I witnessed their vulnerability, the source of our deepest humanity. The biggest mistake we make is covering up who we are and allowing shame to rule our lives. My goal is to create a cinematic environment that provides both the big picture and also the intimacy that will allow audiences to touch the physical and emotional reality of little As’ad’s journey. For this reason, I’ve chosen award-winning Iraqi-Canadian cinematographer Duraid Munajim as my DOP. His camera work excels at revealing documentary reality alongside heightened visual poetry and integrating action sequences with stillness. The film’s rhythm and pace will take its cue from As’ad, who loves contemporary music ? both Arabic and Western. I’ll use sound to punctuate, underscore and heighten the film’s emotional and spiritual journey. Though based in, what some might find, a grim reality, many scenes encourage laughter. The film’s score prompts dance, its open vistas inspire dreams, and its tone encourages tenderness, wonder and humor. All these elements will work in harmony to entertain and also encourage audiences to consider the more troubling and disturbing questions the film raises in relation to their own lives.