City without cinemas to host British film festival, programme includes The Queen, Made in Dagenham, Billy Elliot

The Kurdistan region of Iraq is to launch a British film festival running (Nov 26-28) in the city of Erbil.

Chris Bowers, British consul-general in Erbil, and festival co-founder Phil Hunt, of London-based Bankside Films, have launched the event to forge closer links with the region and develop local filmmaking talent.

During the festival, the UK’s National Film and Television School (NFTS) will be running a series of workshops for young Kurdish filmmakers. 

The event is expected to host around 16 films, screening in an Erbil conference centre. Admission will be free for the general public. The final programme has yet to be announced. The Cambridge Film Trust is providing 2/3 projectors.

“It’s an extraordinary and exciting relationship that is being built here between our industry and the people of Kurdistan,” said Hunt. “We hope that the films we are screening will inspire and entertain in a way that will encourage local filmmakers and artists to engage with cinema and show us their own stories. The country has changed so dramatically over the last two decades. It’s time that those stories were brought to the screen.”

“It’s fascinating to note that many of the films we are programming have strong female role models (The Queen, Pride and Prejudice, Made in Dagenham), or that tackle social stereotypes (Billy Elliot) or discuss the Holocaust (The Boy in Striped Pyjamas). The Kurdistan Region is on a dash for modernity and that comes through in the type of films that people want to see here in Erbil,” added Bowers.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s UK Representative, who is also involved in the festival, added: “Erbil and other Kurdish cities had cinemas at one time and the older generation used to enjoy watching films on the big screen. But the cinemas were shut down at times of war and eventually fell into disuse. The new generation is hungry to see good films and to have a cinema-going experience. This festival will not only bring some of the best British films to them, but also the wonderful skills of the NFTS and the thrill of seeing films on the big screen.”

After decades without a functioning cinema, at least two large cinema complexes are due to open in Erbil in shopping centres Family Malls and Majidi Mall.