Nisar Shaheed al-Fatham: I thought of a film festival worthy of Baghdad and its people
Iraqi director and writer Nisar Shahid al-Fadam began his career in cinema in the mid-1980s after graduating from the Film Institute in Cairo. Before directing his first feature film titled “Operation 911”, he worked in television, directing plays and TV shows. He also worked in Libya, Oman and Egypt. He founded the Sumer Film Festival, was its director and published Sumer, an electronic cinema magazine. New Arab interviewed him about his artistic experiences.
The 1980s were fertile years for Iraqi cinema, and you started with your first film, Operation 911, but then stopped. what is the reason?
The eighties were not prosperous, with Iraq entering the war with Iran there were few works, the country’s resources and skills were directed towards the war economy, which was the misfortune of cinema in Iraq. A major development is on the verge of completing infrastructure and production. All this stopped, and Iraqi cinema, like all other fields of culture and art, entered a dark tunnel. It exits one war, enters another, and an economic blockade exhausts the people and destroys the country.
The opportunity to run Operation 911 was lost. However, situations like his ban after a special screening held for journalists and filmmakers in the “Field of Cinema and Theater” for personal motives affected me personally. The ban lasted so long that its screening was delayed, thus delaying my introduction as a film director until 1993.
Despite limited opportunities in the “cinema and theater industry”, he got an opportunity to make the documentary “The Door” in 1992, after which he signed a contract with television to move the “16mm” filmmaking wheel. Since 1984, he has directed four films, including “The Mud Song”, winner of the first prize at the “Documentary Film Festival” organized by the Syndicate of Artists, written by Noori Al-Rawi, photographed by Shakib Rashid and edited by Sahib Hadad. ; and “The Punishment”, script and commentary by Tamar Mahdi, cinematography by Salman Mazal, and editing by Hadad.
Was your departure for theater and television in general due to a lack of film production or your desire to work in television?
Due to the lack of opportunities, I moved to television work and if opportunities were available, the struggle for them was fierce. Since I was not an employee in the “cinema and theater industry”, I had limited opportunities, especially due to conventional environments.
My colleagues in television, although it was a closed circle, any media company at the time, especially when Faisal Al-Yasiri was its director, with an external “external agreement” for you to run a cinema production on television and to complete five films. Employment contract. Filmed on 16mm, raw material in stock. This was the first step towards reaching the audience and continuing to work in TV shows and plays. I presented films like Abdul Amir Shamki’s “Train 2001” and Saba Adwan’s “Hot Water” on Baghdad TV. , and TV nights. , documentaries and programs in vivid cinematic style and image.
He worked in more than one Arab country, in cinema and television. What about that?
I studied cinema for five years in Egypt, where I joined many Egyptian filmmakers such as Makti Ahmed Ali, Waheed Mukaimar, Tariq Al-Rizkhani, Ahmed Mukhtar, Mohsen Ahmed, Ahmed Sakr and many others. Thanks to the Film Critics Association and Cinema Club, I got to know critics including Sameer Farid, Kamal Ramji, Ali Abu Shadi and Dawood Abdel Sami. I also entered “Studio Misr Al-Ahram” and “Studio Misr”, saw the shooting of many films and lived behind the scenes of the production of some films. This contributed to my development as a director. Therefore, I did not work as an assistant to anyone because I had a strong feeling that I qualified to be a director in Baghdad, Libya and the Sultanate of Oman, where I worked between 1999 and 2003, which resulted in the establishment of an advertising department on television, more than 40 educational and directing plays and a The preparation for the larger series, which was abandoned by the US invasion of Iraq, is Way Out After I Leave. In 2007, I was asked to direct the series “Chess” with actors and technicians from Oman, Bahrain, UAE and India.
You are the founder and director of Sumar Film Festival. What about him?
The festival came out of nowhere. As for me, before that the “Days of Military Cinema” festival and for one session of the “Iraq Film Festival”, I was the director of the festival. Before this, I had people asking me for advice and help with programming, organizing juries, inviting guests, selecting films. So, when I thought of establishing the “Sumar Film Festival”, I wanted it to be an integrated project: five daily programs over the 5 days of each session, intellectual and artistic seminars and workshops in photography, editing, graphics and acting. He has also published books, one of which is on the well-known director and author Sahib Hadad. However, due to “Corona” and the withdrawal of the funder, with 34 films and special documentaries with my colleague Azhar al-Sheikhli, selected for the festival, did not receive any funding.
What is the reason for your rush to break the taboo and host this festival despite the many comments raised about film festivals?
Part of my inspiration stems from my thinking about all things cinema. When I stop producing and directing, I think about writing, programming and performing. Many supported festivals lack support and ambition. So I thought of a festival that would be worthy of Baghdad and its people, and give them the opportunity to see films from outside the commercial setting they see. Images from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Despite the paucity of Arabic cinema publications, what about Sumer Film Magazine, which has two issues so far?
There are fewer film writers, fewer people writing about this art. One of the festival’s goals was to publish a quarterly film magazine, so I decided to revive it by investing in my relationships with writers and film critics. The magazine is a voluntary, non-profit cultural project. I sent invitations to friends in many countries to write in it, and I chose email because it was easy and cheap to reach different places. Now the third issue is being prepared.
What are your upcoming projects? Do you have a plan to make a movie benefiting from your position at Ishtar Film Productions?
Sumer magazine has become an open project, and I have three scripts for films that I am looking for who will finance them: the first is about the poet Abdul Wahab al-Bayadi, but it is not related to his life and biography. In contrast to his poetic experience, the second is about Sayyid bin Jubair, and the third is about the 1951 emigration of Jews from Iraq and related events. As for Ishtar, it was sold and transformed into a successful television transmission and broadcasting company.
What do you see in the Iraqi cinema scene?
If the government does not support the establishment of a city for film production and infrastructure and media production, including theaters across Iraq, there will be no cinema, and films that are dependent on external funding are largely unrepresented. Iraqi civilizational identity, rather than the vision of its financiers. As a result, a young woman’s energies and abilities go the wrong way and become a line in foreign cinema production.