28 December 2011 (www.telegraph.com)
The Kurdistan region in Iraq is to hold its first British film festival, showcasing movies including "The Queen" and "Billy Elliot"
After decades without a functioning cinema Erbil, the region's capital, will see the opening of at least two large cinema complexes in the near future at its two newest shopping centres.
Ahead of that the Kurdistan British Film Festival will show a series of high profile movies and seek to foster the local filmmaking community.
During the festival the UK’s National Film and Television School will run a series of workshops for young Kurdish filmmakers wanting to tell their stories.
The festival is being launched later this month by Chris Bowers, British consul-general in Erbil, and co-founder Phil Hunt of London-based Bankside Films.
Mr Bowers said: “The Kurdish people are emerging from a period of isolation. They have forged strong ties with the UK and we are having some very good success in business and education links.
"We want Erbil to be seen as the type of place that can host a film festival. We want to put the Kurdistan Region on the map.
"It’s also fascinating to note that many of the films we are programming have strong female role models or tackle social stereotypes. The Kurdistan Region is on a dash for modernity and that comes through in the type of films that people want to see here in Erbil.”
Other films being shown include Made in Dagenham, Pride and Prejudice, and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas.
Mr Hunt said: “It’s an extraordinary and exciting relationship that is being built here between our industry and the people of Kurdistan.
“We hope that the films we are screening will inspire and entertain in a way that will encourage local filmmakers and artists to engage with cinema and show us their own stories.
"The country has changed so dramatically over the last two decades. It’s time that those stories were brought to the screen.”
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s UK Representative, who is also involved in the festival, said it would bring the "thrill of seeing films on the big screen” back to Erbil.
He said: “Erbil and other Kurdish cities had cinemas at one time and the older generation used to enjoy watching films on the big screen.
"But the cinemas were shut down at times of war and eventually fell into disuse. The new generation is hungry to see good films and to have a cinema-going experience."