Kuwaiti producer’s film to debut in Sarajevo

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Baghdad-set film tells stories of ordinary people

KUWAIT CITY, Aug 12: An internationally co-produced feature film directed by Maysoon Pachachi — a London-based filmmaker of Iraqi origin — will have its world premiere at the prestigious Sarajevo Film Festival in Bosnia & Herzegovina in August. The film — co-produced by Talal Al-Muhanna through his Kuwaiti company Linked Productions — has been made in collaboration with multiple producers in France, Germany and UK and with support from numerous film funds globally, including: British Film Institute, Visions Sud Est (Switzerland) and Doha Film Institute in Qatar. Set in the last week of 2006, the film tells the stories of ordinary people living in a mixed Baghdadi neighborhood at a time of sectarian violence and nightly curfews. Says producer Talal Al-Muhanna: “I first began collaborating with the writer-director of this project in 2012, when it was in the early script stage. Later on, other producers joined — inspired by the interweaving stories of a community affected by ongoing conflict.”

Siham Mustafa as Nermeen in a scene from the film ‘Our River … Our Sky,’ which is co-produced by Talal Al-Muhanna through his Kuwaiti company Linked Productions

Indeed, the director of the Sarajevo Film Festival — where the film will be screened for the very first time, in the director’s presence, on August 19 — echoed the producing team’s sentiments. At the time of his invitation to the filmmaker, festival director Mirsad Purivatra wrote: “Every second of your film reminds me of our war and post war story in Sarajevo… Beautifully told stories which the whole world ought to see and learn from…” The script — co-written by a Baghdad-based writer and university professor, Irada Al-Jubori — won the $100,000 IWC Schaffhausen script prize at Dubai International Film Festival in 2012, awarded to the filmmaker by Head of Jury Cate Blanchett. Says filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi: “This film has been a long time coming, with lots of fundraising success in some years and then, at other times, long waits with not much happening. I think the unusual ensemble nature of the film left some potential funders unsure about whether to get on board the project or not. But we finally made it.”

While the veteran editor and director had long worked on TV series and documentaries — some of which had won awards and were broadcast in the UK and Germany — “Our River…Our Sky” is her first fiction film: “After making documentaries for decades, it was interesting to be a ‘first-timer’ once again,” quipped the London Film School graduate and former student of renowned British director Mike Leigh (“Vera Drake”, “Topsy Turvy,” “Peterloo”). The Arabic title of Pachachi’s multi-character Arabic-language drama is “KulshiMakoo”. The film stars Paris-based actress Darina Al Joundi of recent Oscar-nominated drama “The Man Who Sold His Skin”. In the new film, Al Joundi plays a single mother and novelist who finds herself unable to write. As Pachachi — one of the film’s two writers — puts it: “The central character of Sara refl ects the experiences of my co-writer Irada Al-Jubori, who really struggled to be creatively active as a writer during some very intense periods of sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. In many ways, Irada felt unable to write fiction at the time, when real life itself was so terrifying and awful.

An underlying theme of our film is about how creativity can function as an act of resistance. While co-writing the script we asked ourselves if the character of Sara, who is a novelist in the story, would ultimately find a way to remain artistically creative — not just for herself but also, in a way, for her daughter — despite the grim circumstances they were both in.” Ms. Al Joundi — the actress playing Sara — is joined by an impressive array of actors from the UK, Sweden and Germany including Zaydun Khalaf (“A Hologram for the King”), Meriam Abbas (“Baghdad in My Shadow”), Basim Hajar (“In the Last Days of the City”) and Badia Obaid (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”). Individually and collectively, their characters convey the story of Iraq’s post-invasion implosion in a way few Hollywood films will ever be able to: Pachachi reminds that for whatever “quirks and faults” her abundantly casted film of intertwined tales may have, “It comes from a place of personal experience — not a Hollywood executive’s imaginary playbook; because it was written, acted and made by people who understand and, in many cases, lived through that period in Iraq.” “Our River…Our Sky” is a UKFrance- Germany-Kuwait-UAEQatar co-production

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