Letters From Baghdad

Letters From Baghdad Ltd / Between the Rivers Productions LLC   |   USA/UK/France

"Letters from Baghdad" is the story of a true original, Gertrude Bell, sometimes called the 'female' Lawrence of Arabia. Voiced and executive produced by Academy award winning actor Tilda Swinton, the film tells the story of this British spy, explorer and political powerhouse who helped draw the borders of Iraq after WWI and established the Iraq Museum, before being written out of history. Using never-seen-before archival footage of the region, the film chronicles Bell's extraordinary journey into the Arabian desert and the inner sanctum of British male colonial power. It is a unique look at both a complex woman and the tangled history of Iraq and is surprisingly relevant today. Letters From Baghdad is composed almost entirely of archival footage, much of it shot nearly 100 years ago in the Middle East. As co-directors, a fundamental aspect of our filmmaking partnership is our love of early cinema and archival footage. We are always looking for unusual ways to incorporate archival materials into a film and drawn to the idea of working with archival footage the way a painter works with a palette. One of our primary objectives for our film was to use archival footage to pull back the curtain on a remarkable era and immerse the viewer in a long vanished world. At the same time, we looked for footage that could transcend time and place and evoke emotion, setting a mood and informing the pace of the narrative. We knew that it would be a challenge to find enough footage for a feature length film. How much footage would even exist of Baghdad, Damascus, Teheran and Cairo from the early 1900s? What shape would it be in? The results of our international search for footage thrilled us. Eventually, we amassed over 1000 extraordinary
film clips, some of them hand-tinted, from more than 25 archives around the world. Many clips had never been digitized, and were buried in reels that had been in storage for more than half a century. It has been our great pleasure to have these film clips digitized and bring them, as well as Gertrude Bell, to life.