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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Erbil Expects To Open 30 Movie Theaters By 2012


                                                           A scene from Bahman Qubadi's Kurdish film "The Turtles Can Fly".

Erbil will have around 30 new cinemas by next year and Kurdish movies will be shown daily, says Farzin Kareem, spokesman for Erbil’s Cinematographers Association.

Iraq’s only modern movie theater is in the Kurdish city of Sulaimani, but Erbil will soon dramatically overtake its smaller rival by building dozens of cinemas across the sprawling city.

The Kurdistan regional capital, one of the safest cities in Iraq, is modeling its development after Gulf cities such as Dubai as it attempts to become Iraq’s capital of commerce and consumerism. Malls – thus far the primary form of entertainment -- are springing up all around Erbil, and many of the new cinemas will be built in family-friendly shopping centers, Karim toldRudaw.

While the theaters will primarily show popular Hollywood features, filmmakers welcome the cinemas as a way to promote Kurdish film, Kareem said, and “will try to increase citizen awareness about film.”
One of the Kurdish filmmakers’ goals is to create independent film and cinema in Kurdistan.
“In Iraqi Kurdistan the government runs the cinemas, but we want filmmakers to decide on films and cinema issues,” Kareem said. “In the future we will create filmmaking that will be appropriate for Iraqi Kurdistan’s social, cultural and political fabric.”

Many in Iraqi Kurdistan complain that they are unable to watch popular Kurdish movies, including internationally acclaimed films such as Iranian Kurdish filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi’s A Time for Drunken Horses.
Sherzad Majeed, 32, a resident of Erbil, said, “Very often I hear about Kurdish movies taking part in international festivals and winning awards, but until now I haven’t seen any of those movies.”
Majeed hopes cinemas will expand to other Kurdish cities so that Kurdish films can reach wider audiences.
Kareem has asked companies and wealthy Kurdish businessmen to invest in the film industry. He believes that when it comes to cinema, the Kurds have come a long way.

“Kurds have their own place in international film festivals,” Kareem said. “In the last Cannes Film Festival, [Kurdish filmmakers] participated with four films.”
Kareem said Kurdish cinema has helped the Kurdish image internationally, but has not educated the Kurdish public on culture and politics.

Tofan Abubakir, 27, a young Kurdish cinematographer from Erbil, said, “Cinema needs to become an independent industry so that we can serve the interests of our people and give them another alternative besides commercial movies.”

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