Letters from Baghdad tells the extraordinary and dramatic story of Gertrude Bell, the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day. She shaped the modern Middle East after World War I in ways that still reverberate today. More influential than her friend and colleague Lawrence of Arabia, Bell helped draw the borders of Iraq and established the Iraq Museum. Why has she been written out of history?
Letters from Baghdad is the story of a true original—Gertrude Bell—sometimes called the “female” Lawrence of Arabia. Voiced and executive produced by Academy award winning actor Tilda Swinton, the documentary tells the dramatic story of this British spy, explorer and political powerhouse. Bell traveled widely in Arabia before being recruited by British military intelligence to help draw the borders of Iraq after WWI. Using never-seen-before footage of the region, the film chronicles Bell’s extraordinary journey into both the uncharted Arabian desert and the inner sanctum of British male colonial power. With unique access to documents from the Iraq National Library and Archive and Gertrude Bell’s own 1600 letters, the story is told entirely in the words of the players of the day, excerpted verbatim from intimate letters, private diaries and secret communiqués. It is a unique look at both a remarkable woman and the tangled history of Iraq. The film takes us into a past that is eerily current.
Photograph of Gertrude Bell courtesy of The Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University
About Between the Rivers Productions
Founded by Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl, Between the Rivers Productions, a name derived from the ancient word “Mesopotamia”, produces character-driven documentary films that explore extraordinary individuals through the intersection of history, culture and film. Spurred after Zeva and Sabine worked together seven years ago on the film Ahead of Time about another extraordinary woman, journalist Ruth Gruber, Between the Rivers Productions was cemented by their mutual sensibility and a shared passion for exploring the choices trail-blazing women must make. BTW Productions strives to create innovative ways to tell history in order to engage a wide audience. Combining important educational content with dramatic and visual concepts, their films are unique, cinematic and inspiring.
Letters from Baghdad is Between the Rivers Productions’ first feature length documentary.