Rashid, Uday (1973–)

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Rashid, Uday
(1973–)

Uday Rashid, Iraq's premier filmmaker of the post-saddam hussein era, has emerged to play an unprecedented role in the Iraqi film industry that was censored and suppressed for two decades. His films depict the dark side of life and humanitarian tragedy in Iraq after the fall of Saddam during the 2003 U.S. military invasion. The films produced amid social decay, hopelessness, and insecurity have reconnected isolated young generations of Iraqis with the outside world. Uday's career rekindles hope and development in the Iraqi film industry, especially for young Iraqis.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Rashid was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1973, and today is a documentary filmmaker and musician. He served as the director and screenwriter of 2005's Underexposure, a film about Baghdad. After the American attack on Iraq, Rashid and Majed Rasheed produced the film on social life and destruction of Baghdad. The film also shows the response of the people to the new situation. The coproducer was Tom Tykwer. In the main roles were Samar Qahtan (Hassan), Yousif aluminium-Ani (Abu Shaker), Auwatif Salman (Futha), Hayder Helo (Wetter), Hajed Rasheed (Ziyad), and Meriam Abbas (Maysoon). The film was produced in both Iraq and Germany by the Enlil and Creative Pool companies. Rashid's film explores the bleak life of refugee children in Iraqi Kurdistan on the eve of the U.S. invasion in 2003. The post-Saddam Iraq has been characterized by instabilities and social chaos which also affected Rashid. He was living in Europe as an artist but was prompted to return to Iraq after the brutal assassination of a friend who was a television broadcaster. Due to insecurity and perhaps, targets on his life, Rashid could not stay in his own house but had to join his family in Syria. According to Rashid, artists must choose between "personal safety and artistic freedom and honesty." He posited that the resulting double vision, within and above reality, is a precondition for the progress of Iraqi artists. Rashid pointed out that his triple identities of being a Muslim, Arab, and Iraqi cannot be easily divorced from his life and by extension, artwork. This is centrally because the ultimate call of the artist is to represent the spiritual core of every person in a way that challenges them to express their religious heritage instead of promoting the destructive aspect.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

In 1992 Rashid was the founding member of a group of thirty five young Iraqis called the "Survivors." The group was multi-ethnic, multireligious, and included two women. The central objective of the group included making films and writing screenplays. It acted as an underground culture club which staged closed-showings of plays and poetry readings. Twenty days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the Survivors group published its founding statement. Shortly after the U.S. forces entered Iraq, the culture club staged a free performance of a play titled, "They Dropped by Here." Rashid made two self-sponsored documentaries, UN Sanctions-Iraqi Children and Artists' Impressions of Baghdad. He was sponsored by the former Iraqi Ministry of Culture to work on a film of the siege of Baghdad, but the original was destroyed during a coalition air raid.

Rashid's Underexposure was the 2004 Cannes submission from Iraq. The documentary film is semi-autobiographical, and has a cast of characters that includes a filmmaker, artists, a dying soldier, and an autistic child. Rashid shot and directed the film amidst insurgent attacks and American patrols. The title of the documentary film depicts the large amount of expired film stock that was central to the film's plot whereby the lead character was disturbed that his work may not see the light of the day. Actually, Rashid used expired Kodak film which was the only material he could purchase on the postinvasion black market to shoot Underexposure. The shooting of the film was carried out under state collapse, economic paralysis, political insecurity and socioeconomic breakdown. Rashid chose an old Baghdad house on the island shores of the Tigris to shoot the film. This was perhaps to represent the peace and tranquility of Iraq before the American invasion. While Rashid's team was shooting the film, there was a power outage and the streets of Baghdad were quite unsafe at night. Underexposure shows the lives of six characters who wander in Baghdad after the war in search of solace and relief.

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE

Rashid's film has been described as having powerfully addressed the uncertainties, tragedy, and crisis in Iraq in the post-Saddam era. His dexterity and expertise have been hailed as well. Rashid presented a cast that was riddled with both hopelessness and promise. Rashid is a highly skilled director and determined filmmaker who worked successfully with expired film and obsolete technology. His film reconnected generations of isolated Iraqis with the outside world. Underexposure weaves together the complexities of a new reality for families, friends, lovers, and strangers. The film "blends reality and fiction to create a lyrical and textured work that captures the dizzying atmosphere of life during war and fiercely illuminates a part of the world long left in the dark." ("Underexposure," Art East, available from http://www.arteeast.org/pages/cinemaeast/series/fall-series-06/).

Rashid already has garnered international exposure and awards. Underexposure was the 2004 Cannes submission from Iraq, and won the Best Film Award from the International Film Festival-Singapore.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Uday Rashid

Birth: 1973, Baghdad, Iraq

Nationality: Iraqi

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1992: Founding member, "Survivors"
  • Director of documentary film on Iraqi children
  • Director of documentary film on artists' impression of Iraq
  • Director of documentary film on the siege of Iraq
  • 2005: Director and screenwriter of Underexposure

LEGACY

Rashid's film was Iraq's first postwar feature film. Underexposure was shown at the international film festival-Rotterdam, international film festival-Singapore, and in Munich, Germany. Indeed, Rashid's film marked the first uncensored Iraqi film in fifteen years. His film helped to debunk both the personal mythology of Sadam Hussein while in power and the myths of the liberating impact of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Following the Iraqi invasion by the United States, several museums, galleries, libraries and artworks were either destroyed or looted. In this way, Rashid film represents an enduring documentation of modern trajectories of Iraq. The film combines real footage of the war with fictional scenes. The documentary aspect of the film was shot in the districts of Baghdad where U.S. soldiers operated. Rashid's generation had suffered from Saddam's dictatorship, war, and American occupation with devastating consequences on the "old-fashioned aesthetic sensibilities." His film brought to life and to the global limelight the image of political chaos and social paralysis of contemporary Iraq.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Film Club Berlin Baghdad." News from the DVD World. Available from www.filmclub-berlin-baghdad.de.

Hometown Baghdad. Available from http://www.hometownbaghdad.com/.

Kurzen, Benedicte. "Here and There." May 2004. Available from http://digitljournalist.org/issue0405/dis_kurzen.html.

Levine, Mark. "Life before Wartime." OC Weekly. Available from http://www.ocweekly.com/film/film/life-before-wartime/19062.

"World." Tribune. Available from http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20031108/world.htm.

                                        Rasheed Olaniyi

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