A Documentary Film

Update from the Letters from Baghdad

“Today I returned to the desert… I have cut the thread. I can hear no more from you or from anyone, and what is more, do you know that I am an outlaw?”

A hundred years ago, 45 year old Gertrude Bell wrote these words as she set out on an extraordinary journey from Damascus into the desert to Hayil (in modern day Saudi Arabia). The trip was so dangerous that British authorities forbid her to proceed, and she was forced by the Ottoman government to sign a legal waiver releasing them from any responsibility.

She rode by camel 1500 miles, with only two guides, one cook, three camel drivers and 20 camels. She endured countless hardships, even imprisonment, and was eventually awarded the Founders Medal from the Royal Geographical Society for this impressive accomplishment. The journey established her as a preeminent expert on Central Arabia, and her unique knowledge about complex tribal relationships was widely acknowledged by colleagues to be of “signal use” to the British War Office and especially to T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) during the Arab revolt campaigns of WWI.

A Work in Progress…

We are currently in conversations to spearhead a long-term initiative in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, the Iraqi Film Center in Baghdad and Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, to restore and preserve thousands of reels of fiction and documentary film footage in Baghdad. The footage, sitting dormant in a long-abandoned vault, extends from 1920s Iraq (screened in outdoor cinemas as shown above left) to the Saddam Hussein era and is an unparalleled cultural and political resource. In the spirit of cross cultural collaboration, support of the international film community and socially responsible film-making, we are passionate about this aspect of making Letters from Baghdad.

Coming up soon…

On September 12, 2013, we will be presenting a 30 minute work-in-progress of Letters from Baghdad at a conference organized by The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI) and the British Academy in London. Over the course of three days, academics from all over the world will examine her influence on British Middle East policy and the creation of the modern State of Iraq, her role as a woman in a man’s world and her enduring legacy to the world of archaeology.

Join the Letters from Baghdad Team

We continue to make excellent progress towards meeting our funding needs but still have a way to go. Our documentary would not be possible without the generous support you have already shown. As a small team, every dollar counts and every new supporter helps us reach our goal.

Please click below to join our team by making a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible donation: http://lettersfrombaghdadthemovie.com/donate/

As a thank you for your support and generosity, contributions will entitle you to invitations to special events and premieres and, at certain levels, to receive on-screen credit.

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 World War I, Bell drew the borders of modern Iraq, installed its first king and founded the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities. The film, the first feature-length documentary on Gertrude Bell, explores 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.


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