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First Iraqi Cinema Since The Late 1980s Under Construction In Basra

posted 6 Jan 2014, 08:05 by Mpelembe   [ updated 6 Jan 2014, 08:05 ]

Cinema to return to Iraq as construction begins on the first cinematic complex to be built since 1982 in a country that once boasted 82 cinemas.

BASRA, IRAQ (REUTERS) - Basra Times Square will be the place for those seeking a lost cultural experience, to head for soon in Basra, Iraq's second largest city. At the moment, it's a building site, but there are promises of entertaining things to come. Basra Times Square will have the first cinema built in Iraq since the late 1980s and the largest cinematic complex the country has ever had.

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"The project of Basra Times Square is the first of its kind in southern Iraq and it is the largest in Iraq. It includes a mall, it is a new experience for the people of Basra. It will include many activities in the business, tourism and entertainment sectors. What makes this project very special is that it will include a cinema theatre and a play room for children. There will be 7 cinema theatres which will present different programmes and shows. There will also be a separate cinema theatre for children and another theatre which will be run by a foreign company," the manager of the building company in charge of the project, Thaer Abdulzaha, explained.

The Iraq government's cinema department was established in 1959 but produced just two feature-length films in the next decade along with a handful of documentaries.

During the 24-year rule of Saddam Hussein from 1979, the industry mainly served as a propaganda tool for his Baathist party, which also commissioned art, theatre and music.

Films focused mainly on the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, portraying Iraq as the victor in the conflict, which ended in a stalemate and ceasefire. The film "The Long Days" told Saddam's life story.

The heyday of the industry came in the 1970s, when the government established its first theatre, allocated more funds for full-length movies, and attracted filmmakers from other Arab countries.

After the U.S.-led coalition invaded in 2003 and toppled Saddam, movie archives and equipment were looted, and later sectarian violence drained the country of artistic talent.

Film production stalled in a country that once boasted 82 cinema theatres. The infrastructure of the industry deteriorated. Film laboratories and cameras fell into disrepair and cinemas were closed.

But the return of government funding means a new start for many local directors, even if the proposed investment is small by international standards.

"There will be a specialist company to supervise the cinema theatres, the company will take into considerations the cultural and social factors of Basra in choosing the movies that will be presented and the goals behind the movies. Of course the company will be responsible to present modern and useful topics for Basra City," Abdulzaha said.

"The cinema halls and theatres are an important part of Basra's culture, so it is an attempt to recover the culture and heritage of the city," he added.

Costing about 162 million US dollars and expected to open in October 2014, Basra Times Square is being built on an area of 65,000 sq metres.