OUT OF IRAQ: A DOCUMENTARY

By Erica Brody

Published May 02, 2003, issue of May 02, 2003.
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Screening some 176 films over seven days at 11 venues, the second Tribeca Film Festival arrives May 7 in downtown Manhattan. With an array of offerings as diverse as the city itself, the festival was started last May in response to the September 11 attacks by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff as a way to contribute to the revitalization of lower Manhattan and to celebrate the city as a filmmaking capital.

On May 8 and May 11, the festival screens the American premiere of Samir Jamal Aldin’s feature-length documentary “Forget Baghdad: Jews and Arabs — The Iraqi Connection” (Switzerland/Germany, 2002).

Usually referred to only by the single name Samir, the filmmaker was born in 1955 in Baghdad, but has lived in Switzerland since 1961. Inspired by his father’s stories of old friends, Samir traveled to Israel to interview several Iraqi writers living in Tel Aviv about why they left their homeland and how they find life in their adoptive country, among them Sami Michael, Moussa Houry, Samir Naqqash and Shimon Ballas. Major insights are also provided by Ella Shohat, a sociologist and film historian at the City University of New York who grew up in Israel as the daughter of Iraqi Jews. Tying together the themes of identity, assimilation and immutability is Samir’s cinematographic technique of juxtaposing images of his subjects upon backdrops of their earlier lives — be it photographs, passports or mementoes.

Other films of Jewish note at the Tribeca Film Festival include Pearl Gluck’s “Divan” (U.S.A./Hungary, 2003), about the filmmaker’s search for a family heirloom that led from chasidic Brooklyn to Hungary; Eytan Fox’s “Yossi & Jagger” (Israel, 2002), based on a true story about two male officers in the Israeli army who fell in love; Laura Gabbert’s “Sunset Story” (U.S.A., 2003), a documentary that stands as confirmation of the wit and veracity of the elderly, and several shorts.

“Forget Baghdad” at United Artists Battery Park Theaters, 102 North End Ave. (at Vesey Street); May 8 and May 11, 4:15 p.m.; $10, $8 residents with zip codes south of Canal Street, $7 students and seniors, reservations recommended; please call or visit Web site for complete festival listings). (866-265-8499 or www.tribecafilmfestival.com)






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