Oday Rasheed on the Making of QARANTINA and Remaking Baghdad in Today’s Iraq

Rob Avila and Iraqi director Oday Rasheed discuss the genesis of inspiration against a backdrop of war, politics and filmmaking

Iraqi director Oday Rasheed talks to Rob Avila during the premiere of Global Lens 2012 at MoMA

Oday Rasheed is one of only a small handful of filmmakers working and producing in Iraq today. His first feature, Underexposure (2005), captured the immediate aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in a fictional documentary-style story about a Baghdad filmmaker trying to make sense of the tumult of this period. Soon after its debut, Rasheed left the growing sectarian violence in Baghdad for Berlin, where he immersed himself in film studies, gravitating to the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, among others, and eventually developed the script for his second feature, Qarantina. He returned to Baghdad in 2008 to make the film, which was completed in 2010.

Qarantina is one of ten awarding-winning films featured in the Global Lens 2012 series, premiering this January at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Oday was able to attend his Global Lens screening in New York as part of a short U.S. tour that includes multiple screenings at MoMA, and a presentation of the film at the Council on Foreign Relations on January 25th, and also at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service on January 30th.

Recently, during the premiere of Global Lens

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How film can be just as good as a handshake when it comes to crossing borders and building relationships

WATCH: Global Lens 2012 director Oday Rasheed speaks with Deb Amos of NPR about QARANTINA and living and working in Baghdad

Ever since our founding, the phrase ‘promoting cross-cultural understanding through cinema’ has echoed with every presentation of Global Lens we sponsor, every grant we award, and every educational screening we host. Our belief is that film, especially world cinema, has the ability to transcend politics and lines of conflict, exposing us to new cultures and new ways of thinking, allowing for better communication as a global society.

It’s a spectacular concept, and hardly the first of its kind—over the centuries, art and literature have always had the same power. However, when it comes to film, for as simple as it sounds, until audiences see this process in action, the phrase rings a bit theoretical, and idealistic. In fact, in a world where the majority of people consider film a form of entertainment, saying it is anything other than that is a hard sell—unless of course we “sell” it within a context other than entertainment.

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