Iraq in Venice

July 26, 2011

For the first time since Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, Iraq has a presence at the prestigious Venice Biennale. We follow six Iraqi artists as they prepare their work for the show.

Thousands of years ago, Iraq was the cradle of civilization: Mesopotamia, the ‘land between two rivers’ – the Garden of Eden. Decades of despotism, destruction and despair have meant that Iraq and Art are not words normally heard together. But now, despite all the dangers and difficulties, art is re-emerging.

We filmed in Iraq, New York, Italy and London – all with male artists as no women were selected for this show. They included:

  • Halim Al Karim who survived for three years in a hole in the desert, escaping conscription into the Iran Iraq war
  • Adel Abidin who satirizes Saddam’s national hymns and America’s arrogance
  • Walid Siti who paints the mountains of Kurdistan in his East London studio – when we visit Iraq, we see why: the mountain rears up right outside his family home; his father spent years hiding and fighting in those mountains.
  • Ahmed Al Soudani whose visceral paintings of violence and chaos sell for six-figure sums in New York.

Their work is always imaginative, never just didactic. This was an epoch-making event in the history of a war-torn country, and the film opened a new window onto that world.

‘…lively, taut and informative’
Howard Male, The Arts Desk

‘full of vitality and contrasts’
Sunday Times


  • Artecinema, Naples 2012 – Official selection



Cinematography Patrick Duval
Producer/Director Jill Nicholls
Researcher Tracy Drew
Film Editor Allen Charlton