FEATURE: From Baghdad to San Antonio, QARANTINA Comes to South Texas

UT San Antonio Professor Steven G. Kellman (and former HuffPo contributor) on fighting off the ‘the toxins of cultural provincialism’ with QARANTINA…

A scene from QARANTINA (dir. Oday Rasheed, Iraq)

Though it is the seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio is, like all but a few other areas in the country, virtually quarantined against foreign cinema. When an imported film does get screened in a local commercial theater, it is almost always from Britain, since, according to the industry’s conventional wisdom, Americans are monolingual, and they do not go to the movies to read; box-office receipts for inferior remakes of The Vanishing, The Debt, and The Seven Samurai exceed those for the subtitled originals. Film is the most portable of the arts, but national aversion to foreign film reflects widespread indifference to anything beyond our borders but violence.

As an antidote to the toxins of cultural provincialism, the San Antonio Museum of Art has scheduled monthly public screenings of works – twice each – provided by the Global Film Initiative. I was invited by SAMA to introduce the films and lead post-screening discussions.

October’s offering, Qarantina, written and directed by Oday Rasheed, is an outstanding demonstration of foreign cinema’s power to bring fresh perspectives to worlds that many hardly knew existed. Set in contemporary Baghdad, Qarantina is a film by Iraqis, about

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