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The audience of the 3BY3 Film Festival in Baghdad, Iraq, 3 March 2019
The audience of the 3BY3 Film Festival in Baghdad, Iraq, 3 March 2019

IRAQ: Short film festivals tell stories of minorities and human rights

26 September 2019

The story of a pianist living amidst war. The tale of a poor child who sneaks into a classroom desperate to be educated. These were just two of the films showcased during a nation-wide film festival and competition in Iraq. Hosted by UN Human Rights, the six-month long festival toured 17 of Iraq’s 19 governorates.

Over 4,000 Iraqis watched the leading short films on human rights of ethnic and religious minorities, with social media and television coverage reaching thousands more.

Backed by support from the Norwegian Government and the Iraqi film industry, short-listed films were screened by Iraqi partner Art City Film and TV Production during the launch event, the 3By3 Film Festival in Baghdad from 3-5 March 2019. UN Human Rights held 33 other events around the country until August.

“Through these powerful films, we’ve had the privilege of hearing critical discussions on a vast range of human rights concerns, including enforced disappearances, protection of minorities, gender-based violence, accountability for conflict atrocities, and discrimination,” said Danielle Bell, Representative for UN Human Rights in Iraq. “We’ve heard enriching and passionate exchanges from the members of Iraqi minorities themselves, to religious and tribal leaders, women who head their households, film makers, human rights defenders, academics, local mayors, police, university students and disability advocates.”

In addition to screenings in the Governorates of Iraq, leading short films were shown by UN Human Rights at events in New York, and in Baghdad, including a gathering of 350 youth hosted by the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

The winning films

The 24 films were reviewed by a panel of three independent and impartial international judges. The judges awarded first place to an animation film My Music that celebrates the resilience of the artistic community during war by telling the story of a pianist.

In second place was Black Lens, a powerful film on freedom of expression and the corrosive effect of corruption on the exercise of human rights.

Give Me My Chance, a film about the ingenuity of a poor child who sneaks into a school to participate in a mathematics class, took third place.

With thanks to funding from the Norwegian government, the directors of all three films secured film grants to assist with the costs of production of their next film projects.

Audiences across Iraq were also given the opportunity to vote for their favourite short film. The short film Cinderella received the most votes at 32 out of 36 film screening events. This Iraqi retelling of the classic children’s story highlights the plight of a girl who is orphaned by war and raised by her grandmother.

The ten year-old actor who played Cinderella addressed the Najaf Film Festival in April: “Acting the scenes of Cinderella was an extremely emotional experience for me because I lost my father in war. I strongly feel that loss. Actually, I was not acting. I was showing my real life.”

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