Joan Porter MacIver

Gertrude Bell Film & Q&A

On Monday 29th May Letters from Baghdad, a fascinating documentary about the extraordinary life of English writer, archaeologist, diplomat and spy Gertrude Bell (the female Lawrence of Arabia), will be shown at Saffron Screen and followed by a Q&A with one of the film’s contributors and local resident, Joan Porter MacIver.

Joan has strong ties to the Middle East through work and having lived and worked for many years in Lebanon, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and is a Council member of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (formerly British School of Archaeology in Iraq) – the Gertrude Bell Memorial, founded with a legacy in her will. She became involved with the directors of the film early on in its formation and invited them to attend an international conference on Gertrude Bell held in London in 2013, co-sponsored by the British Academy, which provided additional impetus to the film and its creation.

Voiced by Tilda Swinton, Letters from Baghdad is a captivating documentary exploring the remarkable life of Gertrude Bell, who wielded significant political power in British Imperial policy across the Middle East in the early 20th century – the only woman to do so. The film shows how her work offered a counterpoint to typical all-male colonial power and that her ideas about the future of the region were in many cases stunningly prescient.

“This is a fascinating documentary on Gertrude Bell, the English explorer, writer, diplomat, Arabist and possible spy, who was a contemporary of TE Lawrence — but much less well known”.
The Times

“An honest, thoughtful tribute to the woman who not only carved new boundaries on the map but also redrew the boundaries of what women were considered to be capable of.

Joan Porter Mac MacIver is Project Coordinator for the new Basrah Museum project funded by the Cultural Protection Fund for the Friends of Basrah Museum (a UK charity) and was the former Executive Director of the Honor Frost Foundation promoting underwater archaeology in the E. Mediterranean. Joan and her family have lived locally in N. Essex since 1993 and maintain a small holding.

Image Copyright: Joan Porter MacIver