This high-stakes journey through the Middle East to discover the fate of a Jewish woman’s long lost Iraqi father takes an unexpected twist. Along the way, the film simultaneously chronicles the all but vanished and forgotten though once vibrant Iraqi Jewish community. How did you first come upon this story? In 2010, I began connecting via Facebook with Iraqi expatriates and citizens as well. As I chatted with them, I was curious to understand what do I have in common with them, as I am also someone from Iraqi decent. At that time, I also met Linda, who had a much wider circle of acquaintances and readers in the Arab world. I felt that her powerful story connects both the painful guilt-ridden past as well as the courageous steps that she is taking in the present to reconnect with people in Iraq today. Describe the difficulties/risks in making a film like this? I had a limited access to the sources of information and, of course, the story took place in places where I have no access to or very limited access. When I traveled with Linda to film her voting for the Iraqi Parliament in Jordan, we were held in custody by the Iraqi authorities at the ballot for a whole day until the Jordanian general security intervened and got us out. Also, just before we completed the film, there were some threats that put some people who participated in the film in danger. That’s why we have decided to blur their identity in the film for their safety. What was it like to chase down both a lost life and a lost way of life in a war ravaged country? It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack and then stumbling upon a much bigger treasure, the story of a lost history. Tracing this history required following the more immediate connection formed between an Israeli journalist in Jerusalem and an Iraqi journalist in Baghdad. Though the current political situation and my own identity did not allow me to shoot in Baghdad myself, the use of technology allowed us to traverse borders in new and exciting ways and opened different avenues for pursuing the film’s protagonists and their story. Do you think a Jewish population will ever again thrive in Iraq? Presently, there are only four Jews left in Iraq and it’s hard to imagine that Jews will resettle in Iraq in the near future. But as we know, history can be full of surprises. The real question then becomes: Will the Iraqis acknowledge the existence of a community that represents an integral part of their heritage? And, concurrently, will the Jewish world acknowledge that its history is interwoven with that of the Arab world and it’s culture?
Since completing the film, what has the feedback/fallout been like? Jews from Arab countries represent more than 50 percent of the Israeli population, but their stories are rarely represented in documentaries. So this is perhaps why Shadow in Baghdad has attracted so much attention and why the film’s screenings in Israel have been sold out for three months and counting. Furthermore, the film has attracted strong interest from Iraqi intellectuals and expatriate Iraqis drawn to its hopeful message that all Iraqis might be united over a shared cultural heritage that stretches deeper in time than the country’s current sectarian strife.
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