The first-ever internationally co-produced feature film co-written and directed by Iraqi women is set to have its World Premiere at Sarajevo Film Festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 19 August 2021 at 6 pm within a special program section entitled Dealing with the Past.
Our River…Our Sky is the narrative feature debut of Maysoon Pachachi, a London-based filmmaker of Iraqi origin. The script was co-written with Irada Al-Jubori, a Baghdad-based writer, journalist and professor of media studies at Baghdad University.
Produced collaboratively between Oxymoron Films (UK), Les Contes Modernes (France), Neue Mediopolis Filmproduktion (Germany) and Linked Productions (Kuwait), the film was made in coproduction with Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma (France) and Lightburst Pictures (Germany). Countries of production include UAE, Qatar and Iraq – the latter being where the film was shot.
The Baghdad-set stories in Our River…Our Sky revolves around the lives of a community of ordinary people in a mixed Baghdadi neighbourhood in the last week of 2006, between Christmas and the Muslim Eid. Set against a backdrop of rising sectarian violence and nightly curfews, the film’s characters struggle to make sense of a world fragmenting before their very eyes while, at the same time, going about their daily lives and holding on to a fragile sense of hope.
“Another Day in Baghdad”
The filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi says about the choice of title – previously known as Another Day in Baghdad”
“In our film, some characters will leave the country and others refuse to, however dangerous the situation is. I wanted a title that could express this refusal to be dispossessed. I knew the river, for all Baghdadis, the heart and soul of the city, had to be in the title and the sky above it.
The film was supported by film funds and arts organizations in the MENA and Europe: Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC); Sanad and Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation-ADMAF (UAE); Visions Sud Est (Switzerland); and MDM regional film fund and Bread for the World (Germany).
Actors playing alongside Al Joundi include Amed Hashimi (as a brother) and Suzan Muneam (as a mother) – who is the real-life mother to the film’s production & costume designer Rayah Aasee.
Says Pachachi: “Casting this film with both professional and non-professional actors from Iraq, Sweden, Germany, France and the U.K. was a journey of discovery for me. Both professionals and ordinary Iraqis were drawn to be a part of this film, which so often began by them telling their own heartfelt stories of internal displacement, emigration and experiences of war”.
At the heart of these stories is Sara (played by Darina Al Joundi) – a novelist and single mother to a 9-year-old daughter Reema (played by Zainab Joda). As the threats around them increase, the protagonist must decide whether to stay in Iraq or to leave
The script’s co-writer Irada Al-Jubori expressed great joy, adding: “I travelled to Sarajevo in 2018 to attend a workshop for Iraqi and Syrian media and activists, organised by IMS in coordination with the Association of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The workshop focused on the lessons of the civil war in Bosnia (1992-1995), the transitional period, and the role of the media during the war and the peacebuilding periods. Later that year, in October, the invitation was reciprocated as professional colleagues from BH came to Iraq to attend a conference of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad