Our feelings took the pictures:
Open Shutters Iraq
A documentary film by Maysoon Pachachi, Oxymoron Productions, 2009
Arab Film Festival Rotterdam 2009, Special Jury Mention
The film documents a remarkable photography project; a group of women, from five cities in Iraq, live and work together in a traditional courtyard house in the Old City of the Syrian capital, Damascus. There they learn to take photographs, and at the same time, present their ‘life maps’ to each other; large charts full of family photos, scrawled poetry and quotations, the names of emotions and crisscrossing green, red and black marker lines, detailing all the ups and downs, forwards and reverses of their lives. With grief, humour, defiance, the women are able to unearth memories and tell stories, which have remained buried for 30 years in the course of just trying to survive devastating years of war, dictatorship and sanctions. In the end, they have woven together the threads of their individual lives into a collective fabric. And because this is a creative project, the experience is transformative; the act of remembering and listening is dynamic and productive.
The women go back to Iraq and shoot hundreds of photographs, each imbued with the sharp emotional truth of lived experience. As one woman says, ‘It is our feelings taking the pictures, not us’.
In Iraq a sense of hope is not easy, but this intimate, moving film is ultimately hopeful; it shows how people, traumatised and silenced by the ‘un-making’ of their world, can sometimes re-assert a sense of existence with an act of creative articulation.
A book of the OPEN SHUTTERS IRAQ project will be published in autumn 2009 by Trolley Press in the UK and the work is being is being exhibited internationally.