Whispers of the Cities
Iraq, United Arab Emirates
Producer: Kasim Abid
Production Company: Oxymoron Films Ltd.
Whispers of the Cities is made up of three separate, observational, emotionally linked visual stories.They were shot over a period of 10 years in 3 different cities of the Middle East: Ramallah in the West Bank, Erbil in northern Iraq and Baghdad. There is no dialogue and no narration in the film.
The project began in 2002 in Erbil. I had been living in London for many years and was in Erbil to run a documentary workshop. I had limited free time when I wasn’t teaching and I would stand on the balcony of my hotel room and just watch the life on the street below. As I watched, I felt impelled to start filming something like a ‘window diary’, where I could watch, from a distance, the way that people were interacting with each other and their surroundings, during the second Intifada (2000-2003) I travelled several times to the West Bank to train young Palestinian students at Birzeit University in documentary filmmaking.I was put up in the Royal Court Hotel in Ramallah, where I was practically the only guest. As in Erbil, I stood, watched and filmed life in front of my eyes.
During my 30 years of living in exile, imaginings of ‘my’city, Baghdad, never left my mind. I finally returned in 2003 and found a very different city.The country was under occupation and so much of what I remembered of Baghdad had been destroyed; its character and the morals and values of the people seemed to have deteriorated. In 2004 with a colleague I set up a free-of-charge film school in Baghdad. Here, too, I found my balcony and my window the place to film unfolding drama of everyday Life.
Kasim Abid was born in Baghdad in 1950. He holds Diploma in Arts from the Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, and MA from Moscow Film Institute VGIK, and has lived in London since 1982. He worked as a cameraman for Channel 4, BBC and other British satellite stations. For five years he worked first as the head of Documentary programmes at Arab TV channel MBC, and then as the head of the camera department at ANN TV. He directed and produced the award winning documentary films Naji Al Ali: An Artist With Vision (London Arab Film Festival 1999), Surda Checkpoint (Iraqi Short Film Festival 2005) and Life After The Fall (Doc Fest Munich 2008). In 2004, in co-operation with colleagues, Kasim founded Independent Film and TV College in Baghdad, where he conducts media training for Iraqi film-makers www.iftvc.org Recently, he has been the director of two festivals in Iraq, Documentary Film Festival Iraq www.dffiq.com 2011 and Baghdad Eye-Human Rights Film Festival www.baghdadeye.org 2012.