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Iraq film directors look to build 'Baghdadwood'

Iraq film production remains nascent, but two directors are opening the country's first film production center in a bid to lure investors and bring native filmmakers back home.

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Filmmaker Oday Rasheed also plans to restore archived Iraqi films.

Jane Arraf

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The windows that would catch a breeze off the Tigris River are cracked, the brick floors covered in debris. But as Oday Rasheed wrests off a padlock and looks around the historic house in the commercial heart of Baghdad, he sees the future of the country's film industry.

Mr. Rasheed points to rusting cans of film stacked in teetering piles and moldering in the heat. They are Iraq's film archives – brought for safekeeping by the Ministry of Culture before the 2003 war. "This is the remains of our heritage – the whole of Iraq's film industry," says Rasheed. He plans to gradually send the celluloid negatives of the hundred or so films dating to 1946 to France to be restored.

Iraqi cinema had its heyday in the 1940s, mostly producing romantic musicals. After the revolution and the rise of the Baath Party, movies were used for political purposes. Now, postwar, filmmakers have freedom – but none of the infrastructure. That's where Rasheed's and fellow director Mohamed al-Daradji's production center comes in.

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