A Documentary Film

Dear Friends,

Please enjoy our update for Letters From Baghdad, a documentary film about Gertrude Bell.

“Tomorrow thank Heaven, I shall not get up at dawn and mount a camel, I’ve done with Arabia for the moment.  I’ve crossed the huge Syrian desert for the second time, in safety, in the peace of God.  And now it’s all behind me and I must try to forget it for a little…The worst of it is I can’t forget it yet.  I go on riding camels through my dreams.”

On May 1, 1914, just three months prior to the outbreak of WWI, Gertrude Bell returned to Damascus from her landmark journey on camel through the Syrian Desert.  She was exhausted, both physically and mentally. Reflecting on her journey, she expressed great disappointment in not having met either Ibn Rashid or Ibn Saud, the two powerful tribal leaders rivaling for control of the vast desert, and how she returned with “a mind permanently altered” and such a deep attachment to the region that “I may end in leaving my much traveled bones there!”  At the time, little did she or anyone else anticipate that the knowledge and relationships gained through her journey would prove so valuable to the War Office and lead to an official summons to join British Military Intelligence in Cairo in November 1915, as the first female intelligence officer.

Project Update…

We’ve just returned from a very fruitful trip to the UK to shoot footage, and conduct research on recently acquired (and uncatalogued) archival material in Robinson Library at Newcastle University.  While in North Yorkshire, we were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview Susanna Richmond, Gertrude Bell’s niece and daughter of her step-sister Elsa Richmond at Mt. Grace Priory. We also met the descendents of Gertrude’s half-brother Hugo and shot captured locales from Gertrude’s early life:  the remaining structures of the Bell family home, Rounton Grange, the rock garden that she designed, the grounds at Mt. Grace Priory and the Gertude Bell Memorial Windows at St. Lawrence Church in East Rounton.

Welcome to our New Partner…


The Arab British Centre is an award-winning, independent, non-political, non-religious and charitable organization which works to improve the British public’s understanding of the Arab world.


And an update from a Partner…

Persian Pictures:  From the Mountains to the Sea, Gertrude Bell’s first-published book, about her inaugural journey to the Middle East in 1891 has been re-issued by U.K. based publisherI.B.Tauris – one of the leading publishers on the Middle East and the Islamic World.

Bell’s journey to visit her aunt and uncle, British ambassador to Teheran in Persia, was a seminal journey in many ways:  her entrée into the world that was to become the center of her life ahead, the first time she fell in love, and the launch of a career as a writer of widely read and acclaimed accounts of the Middle East.

It’s not late to join the LFB Team…

Even if you missed our Kickstarter campaign, you can still become involved!  We continue to need funds for production and post-production costs. You can donate to the film on our website, and please continue to spread the word aboutLetters from Baghdad through Facebook and Twitter.  Thank you so much!

About the film…

Directed by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, Letters from Baghdad tells the story of Gertrude Bell who left the confines of Edwardian England to seek freedom and independence in the Arabian desert and became the most powerful woman of her day in the British Empire.  In the aftermath of WWI, Bell drew the borders of modern Iraq, was instrumental in installing its first king and founded the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities. The first feature-length documentary on Gertrude Bell, the film will explore the choices that trail blazing women almost always have to make, and how her actions and the decisions she made in the formation of modern Iraq continue to influence current events in the Middle East and the world today.

Photography courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Archives, Newcastle University:

At top:  Composite photo of Damascus 1905 by Gertrude Bell

At middle:  Excerpt from Gertrude Bell’s secret diary to Charles Doughty-Wylie, May 1914

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