Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Iraqi Cinema Beyond the Screen

Project description

The role of film in Iraq

Iraqis witnessed the emergence of modern leisure and entertainment, including cinema, at the start of the 20th century, as part of a global phenomenon. While Iraqi film production grew nationally, its presence on the world stage was not significant. The EU-funded ICBS project will put the spotlight on the transnational circulation of cultural and material objects like film. It will examine how these objects came together to expand leisure and entertainment in Iraq. The project’s findings will help grow our knowledge about early cinema in Iraq and elsewhere as well as the opportunities and conflicts that surfaced in Iraq in the 20th century.


In the beginning of the 20th century, Iraqi cities and urban environments changed and new public spheres and forms of work
and leisure emerged. New neighborhoods, and institutions, cafés, and theaters changed the structure of urban life. In the
process, modern leisure and entertainment began moving from the private realm into the public and increasingly came to be
organized on a commercial scale. One index of these changes was cinema, which arrived in Iraq in the early 20th century
and quickly became a highly popular form of entertainment. A modern and global rather than a specifically Iraqi
development, the emergence of cinema in Iraq can be seen as a local inflexion of a global phenomenon. Situated at the
crossroads of Egyptian, Indian, European, and American film production, cinema in Iraqi sheds light on the transnational
qualities of early cinema in Iraq itself but also in the many areas across the globe where national cinema only emerged
belatedly. Yet, the development of the specific culture of cinema, so significant in the history of Iraq as well as in the field of
cinema studies and nonwestern cinema, has received scarce attention. My project undertakes this fresh subject,
interrogating the transnational circulation of cultural products and material objects, including films and technology, and
exploring how they came together at a particular historical moment with capital, performers, and people with technical skills
to establish cinema as a form of leisure in Iraq. Studying the emergence of cinema in Iraq through an approach that attends
to cinema’s material and transnational histories and contexts can enhance our understanding not just of Iraq and its many
entangled networks, connections and histories, but also of early cinema outside of the global centers of gravity. Finally, TECI
shows how the intersection of capital, public space, and popular entertainment lays open both the possibilities, tensions, and
conflicts that developed in 20th century Iraq.


Net EU contribution
€ 226 751,04
0313 Oslo

See on map

Norge Oslo og Viken Oslo
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data