“Poetry is the only way to speak during a period of chaos.”
A film adaptation of a poem by the contemporary Iraqi poet Zaher (or Zahir) Mousa produced, directed and filmed by the Scottish/Iranian filmmaker Roxana Vilk, who has built up quite an interesting and varied body of poetry-related work in recent years: bio pics, interviews, and filmpoems, many featuring poets from the Middle East. (I’ll be sharing another example later in the week.) Among other credits, Maryam Gorbankarimi edited, and the sound design is by Peter Vilk with Ilhan Burutcu on the ney. The Scottish poet John Glenday is listed as the main translator, with assistance from Lauren Pyott and James Sandri (who was also the assistant director). The Vimeo description notes:
This film is a result of a commission from Reel Festivals as part of Reel Iraq 2013 and funded by Literature Across Frontiers and the British Council.
Filmed in Shaqlawa and Erbil, Northern Iraq in January 2013.
The plot summary at IMDb calls In the Beginning
an experimental film based on a poem by the acclaimed and award winning Iraqi poet, Zaher Mousa. The poem uses the form of a creation myth and explores the feelings of an Iraqi man living through the realities of life in Baghdad and how the continuing violence and conflicts have affected the way he sees the world around him.
In the Beginning was selected for screening at the 2014 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin. As for Reel Iraq 2013, it was apparently
an overwhelming success and audiences across the UK got a chance to engage directly with Iraqi poets, filmmakers, artists, writers and musicians.
Highlights included workshops in Erbil as part of the Erbil Literature Festival which led to the creation of new translations of Iraqi poets Zaher Mousa, Awezan Nouri, Ghareeb Iskander and Sabreen Kadhim and of Scotland based poets Jen Hadfield, William Letford, John Glenday and Krystelle Bamford. These new translations were performed at venues across the UK.
Musicians Khyam Allami and City of Salt performed to packed venues in Edinburgh and London, and filmmakers Parine Jaddo and Hayder Daffer presented their work in cinemas across the country.
Reel Festivals also commissioned two films based on another poem by Zaher Mousa, “Born to Die,” from filmmakers Alastair Cook and Marc Neys (Swoon). I shared them in a post back in 2013.
One poem, one cameraman, two films! Reel Festivals commissioned both Alastair Cook and Swoon (Marc Neys) to make films for a piece by the Iraqi poet Zaher Mousa, using footage shot in Iraq by American poet Ryan Van Winkle. Here’s how Alastair introduced his film (the first one above) on Vimeo:
Born to Die is a poem by Iraqi poet Zaher Mousa and is in his native Arabic. There are no subtitles, as I want you to hear to the emotion in this great poet’s voice. The English text of the poem is available on the Vimeo site if you click through. Born to Die was a commission from Reel Festivals and was shot in Iraq for Filmpoem by Ryan van Winkle. It is a pair with Swoon, with him making the English language counterpart translated by Lauren Pyott and read by Jen Hadfield; this is the second film we have paired, the first being Aan Het Water.
These films are part of a larger collaboration between Reel Festivals and Zaher Mousa. Check out Mousa’s essay, “Reel Festivals – Dialogue through Poetry.”