Letters from Baghdad 15

BUY TICKETS 8pm Monday 29 May
Followed by a Q&A with Joan Porter MacIver.

DIRECTORS Sabine Krayenbühl, Zeva Oelbaum

A fascinating documentary about the extraordinary life of English writer, archaeologist, diplomat and spy Gertrude Bell, voiced by Tilda Swinton.

Voiced by Tilda Swinton, this fascinating documentary explores the extraordinary life of English writer, archaeologist, diplomat and spy 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.
(2016 USA / UK / France 93 mins)

First-time directors Sabin Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum spent years amassing archive footage in a bid to do justice to the legacy of Gertrude Bell, the Oxford-educated explorer, cartographer, archaeologist and political attaché whose correspondence is thoughtfully read by Tilda Swinton in this intriguing overview of the origins of Iraq. With a fine cast speaking to camera in the guise of Bell’s contemporaries, the documentary has the scholastic rigour to avoid hagiography.  David Parkinson, Radio Times 

Joan Porter MacIver is a Council member of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq – the Gertrude Bell Memorial, founded with a legacy in her will. She has been working with the BISI (formerly British School of Archaeology in Iraq) since 2000. 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. Joan has lived for a number of years in the Middle East including Lebanon, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Currently she is the 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 North Essex since 1993 and maintain a smallholding.

Language: English / Arabic

BBFC advice: Contains brief images of dead bodies, suicide references
Detailed advice from the BBFC (click on insight)