Last night I finally made it to the Raindance Film Festival in London, only one week into proceedings. Raindance is in its 19th year and is a great opportunity to catch rare screenings of new independent films.
Leaving Baghdad turned out to be a great example, made completely independently by Koutaiba Al-Janabi this film follows Saddam Hussein’s (presumably fictional) former official photographer Sadiq as he flees Iraq and tries to make his way to London.
The major narrative drive comes in the form of letters Sadiq writes to his son, at first blaming the son’s political actions for his forced exile but later softening as he considers all he witnessed during his time filming Saddam’s regime.
As you might expect for an independent film made by a man from a country without a film industry, the quality of the film is a little ropey. The equipment was clearly below professional standards and this can take some getting used to. Looking beyond that though and you have a film which is slightly over-long but with a moving story of a man in peril and forced to reconsider his actions.
Particularly moving are the clips of genuine footage from Saddam Hussein’s regime interspersed throughout the film. Hard not to feel something after watching a man being brutally beaten, you are then confronted with the character who stood by and filmed it.
Leaving Baghdad screens again on Friday 7th October at the Apollo Cinema in London and tickets are available from the Raindance website.