Iraq's Kurdistan Region to Get its Own British Film Festival

Titles to get Iraqi airing include "The Queen," "Billy Elliot" and "Made in Dagenham."

LONDON – The Kurdistan region in Iraq is to launch its first British film festival in partnership with representatives from the U.K. movie industry.

Organizers said a program of films would unspool in the region’s capital city of Erbil later this month.

British titles set to get an outing include Stephen FrearsThe Queen, Made in Dagenham, directed by Nigel Cole and Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot.

Organizers bill the festival as “a celebration of British cinema and the growing relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the U.K.”

The Kurdistan region is emerging slowly but surely after decades of isolation.

During this festival, the U.K.’s National Film and Television School (NFTS) is planning to run a series of workshops for young Kurdish filmmakers wanting to tell their stories.

Chris Bowers, British consul-general in Erbil, and co-founder Phil Hunt, of London-based sales, finance and production banner Bankside Films, have launched the Kurdistan British Film Festival.

The duo’s aim is to forge closer links with the country and reinforce the existing ties the U.K. has with Kurdistan since the first Gulf War in 1991.

“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.”

Bowers noted: “The Kurdish people are emerging from a period of isolation. We want Erbil to be seen as the type of place that can host a film festival: we want to put the Kurdistan Region on the map.”

The festival also enjoys the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

“Erbil and other Kurdish cities had cinemas at one time and the older generation used to enjoy watching films on the big screen,” said Kurdistan’s U.K. rep Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. “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.”

Plans are afoot to build a duo of cinema complexes in Ebril in the coming years in two recently opened shopping malls.